ACT UP: 25 Years of Radical Action

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com April 25 2012 4:05 AM ET

In 1987, the world was six years into the AIDS epidemic. There were few treatment drugs. And any drugs that did exist were incredibly expensive. Stigma originated from places as high as the Oval Office to as local as a teenager's principal's office. And, of course, there was still no cure.

Out of frustration, and a hunger to do something — anything — Act Up formed from several groups and individuals all with a common goal: to radically change the homophobia, stigma, and lack of action affiliated with the early stages of the virus. Their tactics were radical. Highly visual. David versus Goliath. Because lives were simply at stake.

The movement went global, with chapters in major cities across the United States and around the world. Twenty five years later, Act Up New York is taking to the streets today in tandem with one movement that they have clearly influenced decades later: Occupy Wall Street.  

On the following pages, check out a photo-based sampling of the history of Act Up. Below, listen to playwright Larry Kramer reflect on the early beginnings of Act Up.
ACT UP FLYER X560 (WEB) | ADVOCATE.COMACT UP 2001 NIH X560 (NIH) | ADVOCATE.COMACT UP 1998 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COMACT UP BICYCLES X560 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COMACT UP CHEERLEADERS X560 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COMACT UP COFFINS X560 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COMACT UP TIMES SQUARE X560 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COMACT UP CONDOM WASHINGTON MONUMENT SLIDE (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM