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

April 23, 2012


Nelson Vergel

Nelson Vergel

Founder, Body Positive Wellness Clinic and Program for Wellness Restoration; Houston, Texas

ACT UP was fueled by our desperation to take control of our futures even in dark days of death and turmoil. Without this "in your face" approach, many things that we now take for granted would have never happened or taken years to be achieved. But this desperation is now being replaced by some complacency and the need to lead a normal life.

Now that people are living longer and healthier in the United States, grassroots activism has decreased considerably as people reintegrate into a regular life. Many activists have gone back to school or to work. Some have started families. But some still remain out in the field advocating to eliminate ADAP waiting lists, exposing high drug pricing, working on prevention campaigns and outreach, and engaging researchers and industry in HIV cure research. Activism has moved out of the streets and is now happening within corporate meetings with pharmaceutical companies and the FDA.

I am concerned that treatment activism has not been able to attract younger people in the past 10 years. Some of us, old dinosaurs, are still working on issues that impact drug development and policy, but as we get older it is important to mentor younger people to follow our path and continue the work. The cure is on the horizon but still a long way out.

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