dialog on Pride

10 – The AIDS Crisis and ACT UP

By the time Ronald Reagan publicly uttered the word “AIDS” in 1985, 12,000 Americans had already died from the disease. AIDS was notoriously neglected by the U.S. government during its peak, despite being the leading cause of death for men ages 25-44 by 1995. It was dubbed by many as “gay plague” or “God’s judgment (of) homosexuality.” Fed up with inaction, AIDS activists began to take matters into their own hands, founding the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in 1987.

Today, medical treatment is available to prevent the spread and worsening of HIV/AIDS, but the community continues to be haunted by the mass death of a generation of queer people.

A protest staged by ACT UP in San Diego on August 13, 1996. (Source: Tom Herde / Boston Globe via Getty Images file.)