Direct action group Act Up (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) held its first protest in New York City 30 years ago.
At the time, there were no medications available for people with HIV that allowed them to successfully live with the virus. Thousands of people – predominantly gay and bisexual men – were dying.
The group came together out of anger: anger at the government for not providing more funding into AIDS research; and anger at pharmaceutical companies for taking too long to release experimental drugs to patients.
Act Up chapters later sprung up in other parts of the world.
Yesterday, to mark the occasion of the first Act Up demonstration , around 200 Act Up supporters came together again to hold another protest – at a time when many people in the US with HIV are concerned about the Trump administration’s threatened cuts to healthcare.
The very first demonstration took place in 1987 in front of Trinity Church, in New York’s Financial District. It was protesting against exorbitant drug prices and government inaction.
Yesterday’s event gathered at the recently unveiled AIDS Memorial on West 12th Street and was followed by a march around the West Village to the open plaza in Union Square at East 17th Street.
The AIDS Memorial is besides St Vincent’s Hospital, which is where many people with AIDS died in the 1980s and 90s – making it a particularly poignant location for many.
Last week, the group held a smaller gathering at Housing Works’ Keith D. Cylar Community Health Center to mark its anniversary. Longtime member Jim Eigo was among those to speak, explaining why the group continues to protest.
‘We have to continue fighting for the very basic protections for the most vulnerable among us because, my god, they are more vulnerable than ever,’ reported Poz.
‘That includes immigrants and women and transgender people and people who have no health care or only marginal health care and people who have no shelter or unstable shelter.’