Rodger McFarlane committed suicide this week as an alternative to further debilitation from heart and back ailments. He had broken his back in 2002. His brother made public a suicide note in which Rodger explained his reasons for ending his life.

Rodger was a fearless AIDS and gay civil rights advocate who started the first AIDS crisis hotline in 1981 when the disease was called GRID (Gay related immune deficiency). McFarlane subsequently was director of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and Bailey House, which provides housing for homeless people with AIDS.

Larry Kramer, founder of GMHC, told the NYTs this week, “Mr. McFarlane walked in one day and asked to do volunteer work. He started a hot line on his home phone, which grew into the G.M.H.C. hot line, which became the lifeblood of information for the organization, G.M.H.C. is essentially what he started: crisis counseling, legal aid, volunteers, the buddy system, social workers.”