The History of the AIDS Activist Movement

Friday, July 06, 2012

Jim Hubbard, director of the new documentary "United In Anger: A History of ACT UP", talks about his new film and the legacy of the ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) grassroots movement.


Jim Hubbard

Comments [9]

Sisterhood of traveling condoms from nyc

did anyone else see the handful of gay people who gave rReagan the finger at a recent WH LGBT gathering from PA? They gave Reagan the finger for his inaction of the AIDS crisis...personally, I think he never understood the crisis, and only started "acting up" at the tippie end of his presidency.

Jul. 06 2012 03:32 PM
gary from queens

The HIV transmission scare is in accord with tradition of always blaming outlyers (ie: asian or spanish flu; SARS; West Niles). In the case of HIV, it blamed gays, when in fact it was based on what some gays used-----Nitrate inhalers that were immunosupressive afrodisiacs. In other words, they abused specific drugs.

Sexual transmission is merely a very convenient assumption. All the scientific studies that have tried to measure the sexual transmission of HIV have repeatedly shown that it is virtually impossible to transmitt HIV sexually or by any other means.

It would take an American woman over 270,000 random sexual contacts with men to become antibody positive to HIV. It would take an American man 7-8 times that number of random sexual contacts with women to become antibody positive to HIV.
[Padian NS, Shiboski SC, Glass SO, Vittinghoff E. Heterosexual transmission of HIV. Am J Epidemiol. 1997 Aug 15;146(4):350-7]

However, the Padian et al. study only addresses the sexual acquisition of antibodies to HIV. It was not designed to determine if AIDS (i.e. the syndrome of diseases) is sexually transmitted.

On average, it requires 1000 heterosexual acts, and 100-500 homosexual acts to successfully transmit HIV.
[Rosenberg & Weiner, 1988; Lawrence et al., 1990; Blattner, 1991; Hearst & Hulley, 1988; Peterman et al., 1988; Royce RA, Sena A, plus Cates W Jr, Cohen MS. Sexual transmission of HIV. N Engl J Med 1997;336:1072-8]

There's no correlation between the prevalence of HIV and any of the STDs.:
[Chitwarakorn A. Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Asia and the Pacific. Chiang Mai, Thailand: Ministry of Public Health, AIDS Division, HIV/AIDS Situation in Thailand, 1998]

The evidence also shows that the same transmission rates occur in Africa as anywhere else.
[Gray RH, Wawer MJ, Brookmeyer R, et al. Probability of HIV-1 transmission per coital act in monogamous heterosexual, HIV-1 discordant couples in Rakai, Uganda. Lancet 2001;357:1149-1153.]

Jul. 06 2012 11:36 AM
Stella from Manhattan

Thank you - I can't wait to see Hubbard's documentary. The extraordinary story of ACT UP would not be complete with including the equally extraordinary story of GRAN FURY, the design collective which used the power of design to galvanize the movement while changing public opinion and public policy. Formed in the late 80s within ACT UP, GRAN FURY created a body of memorable and enduring work including SILENCE=DEATH (which incorporated the inverted pink triangle that became a symbol of the gay rights movement) and a series of trenchant ads that featured Ronald Reagan, Ed Koch and Cardinal O'Connor.

Jul. 06 2012 11:09 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Science was politicized in this arena. That is, AIDS was treated differently than previous epidemics, by the public health institutions and the medical community. No time in the past were the infected's identities kept secret.

We know why, but there WERE consequences -- probably many more died than would have in order to preserve this anonymity -- and I know it sounds extreme to say so or harsh, but there were probably militant Gay activists who were almost willing to see their fellows die, if it would help militarize their memberships and add a "morale" aspect to their cause.

The late, gay journalist Randy Shilts railed against strategies such as this before he passed away, but his voice did not carry the day.

Jul. 06 2012 10:58 AM
RJ from prospect hts

ACT-UP is a very targeted movement; OWS is not--yet. That is a significant difference in the success of movements.

Jul. 06 2012 10:55 AM
john from Office

Brian, you love to bring up OWS. They right now are sleeping on the sidewalk in front of the Trinity Church, another useless exercise. Act up was effective because they had money and backing from large parts of the society with money, like Hollywood. Also Gays tend to make good livings.

Jul. 06 2012 10:55 AM
Hugh Sansom

The LGBT community may be the _best_ example of not compromising to get along with narrow-minded, obstructionist politicians like Barack Obama.

Occupy Wall Street, environmentalists, anti-war activists, and others would do well to study ACT UP's strategies if they are to have any hope of progress.

Jul. 06 2012 10:51 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

@ ED from Larchmont-

I'm not sure I would go that far, but ACT UP and others did make big mistakes, intimidating those who should know better....and now forgotten-

Gay activists at LAMBDA Legal Foundation actually fought the city's effort to close down the gay bath houses (huge public health hazards as transmission sites) where multiple, anonymous, usually unprotected copulations with other gay males could be had for the price of admission. That this was seen as fascist by activists seems unbelievable in this age when large soda sizes and outdoor smoking is banned by the city.

And then there was the scare campaign that traditional heterosexual sex was just as dangerous as repetitive unprotected anal sex........misery loves company and allies in fear.......even though many experts at the time expressed doubt about the evidence for this. Now 30 years later, we see this for the politically correct scare tactic by gay activists that it was.....though it has produced an unfortunate epidemic of single parenthood (50% of mothers under 30).

Jul. 06 2012 06:35 AM
Ed from Larchmont

When AIDS surfaces in the 1980s, why didn't the same-sex community urge people to avoid sexual relations since they spread this fatal illness?

Jul. 06 2012 05:57 AM

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