ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) founded in New York City in 1987, is a direct action organization working to end the AIDS crisis. At its height there were 140 ACT UP chapters internationally. Through a democratic structure rooted in Affinity Groups, Working Groups and regular Monday night meetings, often of hundreds of people, ACT UP achieved transformative breakthroughs for people with HIV/AIDS in the arenas of New Medications, Insurance, Needle Exchange, Housing, Alternative Treatments, Prison Organizing, Government Funding and Research and the public perception of people living with HIV.
Watch: United in Anger: A History of ACT UP (dir. Jim Hubbard, 2012)
Major Achievements included a four year campaign that successfully changed the Center for Disease Control’s definition of AIDS to include symptoms experienced only by women, thereby making women eligible for research and services. Significant actions include: Seize Control of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) which won Fast Track and Compassionate Use of new drugs, Storm The NIH (National Institute of Health) which won seats for people with HIV on government committees, Stop The Church (Saint Patrick’s Cathedral) which stopped the Catholic Church from keeping condoms out of New York City public schools, Public Funerals, in which the bodies of dead activists like Tim Daly and Jon Greenberg were carried through the streets, The Ashes Action, in which the ashes of the AIDS dead were thrown onto the White House lawn. Spin-off organizations include Housing Works, Harm Reduction, TAG (Treatment Action Group).
Deborah B. Gould, Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP’s Fight Against AIDS (2009)