Project comes to U to share history of AIDS activism

“United in Anger: A History of ACT UP” tonight comes to the University.

by Vadim Lavrusik

Some of the best stories are those shared through word of mouth.

The history of activism related to HIV and AIDS in the 1980s will be shared today with students at the University through an oral tradition.

Jim Hubbard and Sarah Schulman will present the “United in Anger: A History of ACT UP,” which will highlight the history of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power organization. The organization was founded in 1987 as a group dedicated to ending AIDS discrimination through nonviolent demonstration.

Hubbard and Schulman will present their project at 7 tonight in the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs in hopes of preserving and educating the history of the activism for the AIDS issue.

Schulman, a playwright and novelist who co-founded with Hubbard the New York Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film and Video Festival, said AIDS activism changed the world.

“Any progress that has been made for people with AIDS is because of AIDS activists in the 1980s,” Schulman said.

This is a time when many people wish for change, but think they can’t create it, Schulman said. The project aims to show that regular people in the past were able to create transformation, she said.

Hubbard and Schulmanwill discuss the project, which consists of 64 interviews with people who were and are involved in ACT UP who partook in demonstrations in the late 1980s. Hubbard and Schulman have also given the presentation to students at New York University and the University of Michigan.

Hubbard, a filmmaker, said ACT UP used any tactic it could think of to get drugs developed for people with HIV and to get access to the drugs once they were developed.

“People (with AIDS) weren’t being taken care of the way they should have been in a normal society,” Hubbard said.

ACT UP was involved in national demonstrations, such as a showdown with the Food and Drug Administration headquarters in Maryland that promoted the development of new drugs that would treat AIDS and make those drugs more affordable.

Hubbard said ACT UP’s demonstrations changed the way the country dealt with the affliction.

Owen Marciano, assistant director of the GLBT Programs Office, said the event is part of the GLBT Oral History Project and the history is important for educational purposes.

“There is still a lack of understanding how HIV and AIDS are still a really big issue,” he said. “Infection rates are still rising and I think that is problematic.”

Hubbard said ACT UP is much smaller today and focuses on issues regarding HIV in prisons.

“We don’t think of ourselves as ethnographers or anthropologists studying something,” Hubbard said. “We’re people who came out of the community, and what we’re trying to do is preserve the history of our community.”