Critical Path Project History

The Critical Path Project (formerly known as the Critical Path AIDS Project) was founded in 1989 by people with HIV/AIDS to provide treatment, resource, and prevention information in wide-ranging levels of detail–for researchers, service providers, treatment activists — but, first and foremost, for other people with HIV/AIDS who often find themselves in urgent need of information quickly and painlessly.

Founded by Kiyoshi Kuromiya,  civil rights, gay rights, and HIV activist, the Critical Path Project has harnessed the power of the Internet to get the latest life-saving information to the wider community.

Early Days: The Newsletter and Pre-web Technologies

The founder, Kiyoshi Kuromiya, brought the strategies and theories of his associate/mentor Buckminster Fuller to the struggle against AIDS. The Critical Path newsletter, one of the earliest and most comprehensive sources of HIV treatment information, was routinely mailed to thousands of people living with HIV all over the world. He also sent newsletters to hundreds of incarcerated individuals to insure their access to up-to-date treatment information. The newsletter eventually morphed into a local resource guide and became Philadelphia FIGHT’s Greater Philadelphia AIDS Resource Guide which is published yearly and is regularly updated online.

In addition, Kiyoshi and Critical Path began using new technologies to provide people living with HIV with new ways to communicate with each other around the world and access the latest treatment information as quickly as possible.  A 24-hour treatment hotline/pager system allowed individuals to get immediate, life-saving information. In 1992, in the early Internet days, Critical Path established a computer bulletin board system (BBS) to provide agencies and individuals access to information and resources about HIV that were starting to pop up around the country.

In 1993, Critical Path began offering electronic mailing list hosting services to facilitate conversations between people with HIV/AIDS, medical providers and activists. These electronic mailing lists were critical in organizing and pushing for cutting edge research, opening clinical trials to thousands in desperate need of any possible treatment, and demanding access to medications for thousands who were dying of AIDS. Today, we continue to host over 150 lists of community organizations and activist groups whose work is improving lives and their communities, both HIV and non-HIV related groups working in poor and marginalized communities.

Becoming an Internet Service Provider

In 1994, Kiyoshi realized that Web provided a cost-effective means of reaching frontline AIDS service providers, AIDS researchers worldwide and otherwise hard-to-reach populations. He initially created a comprehensive webpage that was widely recognized as one of the first websites about HIV on the Internet and was a friendly gateway for people with HIV/AIDS to the full range of AIDS information on the Internet.

However, a website was not useful unless the people most in need could access the Internet to get this critical information. By providing the Internet access itself to individuals they would be able to access this life-saving information from the privacy of their own homes, and by offering non-profits web hosting, they would be able to serve hard-to-reach groups locally while at the same time reaching others nationally and worldwide for no additional cost.

In 1995 Critical Path became an Internet Service Provider, like AOL, providing free dial up Internet access and email to individuals, and website and electronic list hosting to non-profits and other community groups. From 1995 until 2008, over 10,000 people in the greater Philadelphia metro area signed up for Critical Path and used it to access the Internet at no cost, with no advertisements, and no time limits on use.

Kiyoshi Kuromiya’s Passing and Memorial Pages

In 2000, Kiyoshi Kuromiya died from complications related to AIDS. Philadelphia FIGHT vowed to continue Kiyoshi’s work. Critical Path demonstrated that a small group of individuals could create a cost-effective alternative to provide Internet access to thousands of low-income individuals and bridge the digital divide.

By 2002, Critical Path had partnered with the Department of Human Services to help get their Family Centers online and provide low-income children and their families with in-home Internet access. Critical Path, with the AIDS Library, established several public computer centers in community organizations to help those without homes to access the Internet in a friendly place where they already received services. The work was carried on and received recognition through an article in the City Paper. By partnering with Nonprofit Technology Resources, Critical Path’s Internet service was loaded onto refurbished computers and provided to thousands of people in need of access to the Internet, which had become even more critical to do everyday business.

New Directions

Since 2002, Philadelphia FIGHT’s Critical Path Project worked with many local technology groups, including the Digital Justice Coalition, KEYSPOTS, and several other organizations working on digital literacy to advocate for increased access to technology for low-income citizens. Joining with several key partners, including the City of Philadelphia and the Urban Affairs Coalition, we applied for federal broadband stimulus funding through the NTIA (National Telecommunications Infrastructure Administration) in 2010. Thanks to stimulus funding granted through 2013, the Critical Path Project, helped to create or enhance 27 Public Computer Centers around the city of Philadelphia and is providing Digital Literacy Training to thousands of people.

Today, Philadelphia FIGHT’s Critical Path Learning Center has expanded its vision and scope. It is a digital inclusion training and advocacy program that enables low-income people to have access to the Internet and digital literacy training, and know where to find critical, trustworthy, and lifesaving health information. The Critical Path Project serves all people of all ages.