The National Association of People with AIDS, a 501(c)(3) certified non-profit organization, was founded in 1983 by members of the Patient Advisory Committee of the Second National AIDS Forum, held in Denver, Colorado by what is now the National Lesbian and Gay Health Association. The committee members came from New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Houston to assure that people living with AIDS were officially involved in the deliberations and had a strong voice in the proceedings. The committee organizing was led by Bobbi Campbell of San Francisco and Michael Callen of New York City and resulted in the adoption of the term "people with AIDS" (PWA) as a rejection of "victim," which implies defeat, or "patient," which implies dependence on the care of others.
The committee’s work also resulted in a historic set of recommendations for a more humane response to the crisis which became known as the Denver Principles as well as the creation of NAPWA. Joining Campbell and Callen on the committee were Bob Bader, Bruce Brockway, Bill Burke, Bob Cocchi, Arthur Felson, Philip Lanzaratta, Michael MacAdory, Chuck Morris, Tom Nasrallah, Robert Reynolds, Dan Turner and Mark Feldman (who died one week before the forum). Their work was assisted by Jeff Richardson, Helen Schietinger and, later, Caitlin Ryan.