Can Protests Save Lives? How ACT UP helped tame the AIDS Crisis

Monday 8 January 2024

Pettiford, Jordan, host. UnTextbooked (podcast). October 2021.

This podcast explores the grassroots activism which protested the prejudiced lack of reaction of the American Government to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s. UnTextbooked interviews David France, a witness to the epidemic in New York City, and author of How to Survive a Plague. He illustrates to the listener the magnitude of the crisis, and then explains the founding, intentions, and actions of ACT UP – the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. ACT UP was a civil movement, founded on rage, to end the AIDS epidemic, primarily by breaking down homophobic and racist political barriers to research funding and access to treatment. ACT UP protested in a variety of non-violent, creative, illegal ways, such as thematic vandalism. While the HIV/AIDS crisis remains a prominent issue around the world, ACT UP was hugely successful in securing lifesaving treatment for people in the United States.

This contribution to the library is a means of remembering, and learning from, unorthodox LGBTQ+ civil resistance and peacebuilding. The erasure of gay people, particularly gay people of colour, meant that confrontational civil resistance, which forced people in positions of power to listen, was the only effective means of peacebuilding for a generation and place that David France describes in this episode as comparable to a warzone.

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