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How Has Activism Changed Since the Early Years of ACT UP?

April 23, 2012


How Has Activism Changed Since the Early Years of ACT UP?

Say what you will about ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power): There can be no doubt that the HIV/AIDS direct-action group, which turns 25 this spring, helped wake up the United States to the largely ignored crisis growing in its backyard. Results of ACT UP's titanic work can be seen today both within and outside the HIV community, in realms from the drug-approval process to graphic design, and certainly in political activism. We asked community members -- some of them past members of ACT UP themselves -- how they believe activism has changed since ACT UP first stormed onto the world stage.

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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Brad (Washington, DC) Fri., Apr. 27, 2012 at 6:25 pm UTC
I think one of the fundamental changes is that many former activists now work passionately to defend the slow, wasteful bureaucracy of AIDS organizations while working in it. When "activists" say we need to speak with one voice, what I hear them saying is "don't challenge our status quo" despite the arduously slow response to change that bureaucracies by there nature are. Activism has itself become an industry that wants people to be reactive, do their bidding, but not necessarily be informed. When you see how many activists are jetting around the world on someone else's dime to the countless conferences, is it any wonder? There are a few activists out here still, but I know from experience that when you challenge the status quo of "AIDS, Inc." it can feel pretty lonely.

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Comment by: Mitch Mon., Apr. 30, 2012 at 11:50 pm UTC
Ditto. Wish I could've said it this well. Lots of people are whispering this under their breath amongst friends, or anonymously on message boards.

The Activist Set loves to berate newer poz for lacking "fire". The reality couldn't be any further from the truth. We've got plenty of fire-we just don't want to waste it on a system that hocks "preventative facial fillers" and recreational sex pills. We're segregated from one another, or supervised like children in support groups. We're screaming in the wilderness, against a superstructure our "elders" never faced. HIV activism always beckons with one hand and strangles with the other.

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