Rock Hudson’s Mystery Illness
“Fight the Fear with the Facts” poster, AIDS Project Los Angeles, circa 1986
Dedicated and extensive networks emerged to care for people with AIDS. Across the country, volunteers delivered food, visited the homebound, and staffed hotlines to answer questions. Their efforts existed in direct opposition to the profound societal abandonment many people with AIDS had experienced.
Courtesy National Library of Medicine
Police officers stand watch over activists at Storm the NIH protest, May 21, 1990
In one of its most dramatic and effective national protests, ACT UP chapters from across the country occupied the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on May 21, 1990. During Storm the NIH, protestors staged a “die in” and plastered buildings with signs and banners to illustrate their demands for governmental action on AIDS treatment. Responding to a wave of activism, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH, initiated changes in the testing of AIDS drugs.
Courtesy Donna Binder
Protestors in front of the Department of Health and Human Services, during the national campaign to change the definition of AIDS, October 2, 1990
With chapters across the country, ACT UP held thousands of demonstrations between 1987 and 1996, including one at the Department of Health and Human Services to insist that women with AIDS receive care and treatment. Their actions transformed how scientists and politicians responded to the AIDS crisis.
Courtesy Donna Binder
Charlie, NYC Department of Health poster, 1980s
Produced by the New York City Department of Health, this poster explicitly blamed bisexual men for spreading AIDS to their female partners and children. Instead of suggesting that Charlie be honest with his wife and protect her sexual health, it assumed that all bisexuals were unfaithful and unhealthy.
We Know Who We Are: Two Gay Men Declare War on Promiscuity, New York Native, 1982
Article by Richard Berkowitz and Michael Callen
…the two men argued that AIDS was not caused by a single causative agent but was down to the combination of factors associated with gay men’s ‘promiscuous’ lifestyles – drug use, multiple sexual partners and repeated exposure to other sexually-transmissible infections. It was widely criticised – not least because it had no scientific basis and also because it assumed that all gay men with AIDS had lived so-called ‘promiscuous’ lifestyles.
Cover of the New York Native, June 1, 1987.
Feature article by John Lauritsen on AZT
…Central to the criticisms was the view that the Native eschewed the growing wealth of scientific data on causation and possible treatments in favour of the latest fad or conspiracy theory.
…by the mid-1980′s, ACT UP were boycotting the publication and its circulation went from a high of 20,000 in 1985 to 8,000 in 1996. It closed on 13th January 1997.
ACT UP/San Francisco’s repurposed image of Gaétan Dugas advertisement from the New York Times, August 23, 1988.
Despite statements to the contrary, the myth of Patient Zero did nothing to contain the AIDS epidemic. San Francisco activists reclaimed Gaétan Dugas’s story and image to counter hateful stigmatizations and defend all people with AIDS as deserving of care and treatment.
Courtesy Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society