Here To Inspire

Michael Lucas on Reviving AIDS Art



I have been struck lately by the ubiquity of media in New York from the early part of the AIDS crisis. In the span of three months, ACT UP had a successful summer exhibition at the White Cube Gallery, the Actors Fund staged Larry Kramer’s play The Normal Heart as a reading, and Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America reopened just this past week. The AIDS-era history is reentering the communities’ consciousness and reaching a new, young gay audience.

These renewed dialogues are important, as evidenced by troubling statistics that one in five gay men in urban areas are living with HIV. The revivals and exhibitions are initiating conversations between gay New Yorkers who lived through the crisis and those who either moved here or were born after it began. We return to these plays and organizations, many of which are older than some of the gay men newly affected by HIV, because they are effective at making the news media and the government pay attention to a crisis they would have rather ignored.

However, we appear to face a continued problem in getting the news media and government to pay attention to the issue of HIV and AIDS as it affects the gay community. Following reports of successful trials in women of vaginal microbicides at the international HIV/AIDS summit this summer, numerous publications lauded the findings as a breakthrough in the fight against the disease. While the American media reported extensively on the findings of the study in women, news outlets made little or no allusion to the potential application of the treatment in HIV prevention among gay men. Considering that the population most affected by HIV and AIDS in the United States is men who have sex with men, how can this not be an important issue for the American media to consider?