aids

The early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic were marked by uncertainty, false information, and fear about the cause and transmission of the disease. Patients experienced stigma and neglect in the city’s health care system. In 1985, parents in Queens launched a school boycott to protest the Board of Education’s policy of allowing children with AIDS to attend public school. Despite having roughly half the country’s reported cases, New York City did not mount a systematic response to the emerging epidemic, and the care and housing of AIDS patients was left to volunteer groups such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC).

The AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP), a direct action group founded in 1987, used stunning visual art, spectacular street theater, and civil disobedience to draw attention to government inaction and the need for effective treatment and prevention to end the AIDS epidemic. ACT UP targeted prominent conservative Catholic leader Cardinal John O’Connor in its “Stop the Church” protests for his outspoken opposition to homosexuality, condom use, sexual education in public schools, and abortion. AIDS activists also sought to draw attention to the archdiocese’s role as a key provider of health and social services, including the city’s first comprehensive-care ward for AIDS patients, which enforced religious directives barring discussion of condoms despite receiving substantial public funding.

AIDS activists succeeded in achieving many of their goals, including lowering the cost of and improving drug treatments for HIV/AIDS, involving patients in decision-making regrading medical research, and changing the definition of HIV/AIDS to incorporate opportunistic infections that effect women and poor people living with the virus. The extremely high death rates from the disease left many feeling desperate by the mid-1990s, however, and led ACT UP to stage political funerals, in which activists carried the bodies of people who died of AIDS through the streets of Manhattan.

AIDS Photo

Manhattan, 1983
AIDS demonstration.

alon reininger | contact press

AIDS Photo

Central Park, Manhattan, June 1983
Memorial to AIDS victims in Central Park.

alon reininger | contact press

AIDS Photo

Central Park, Manhattan, June 1983
At a memorial to AIDS victims, a mother (left) and sister hold signs in Central Park.

alon reininger | contact press

AIDS Photo

Manhattan, June 24, 1985
Gay Men Health Crisis member Bob Luggo and friend march on Fifth Avenue in Gay Pride Day Parade with GMHC. The wheelchair symbolized their missing friend who died of AIDS.

frank fournier | contact press

AIDS Photo

Manhattan, September, 1985
Anti-AIDS demonstration by parents in front of the Board of Education headquarters on Livingston Street.

frank fournier | contact press

AIDS Photo

Manhattan, 1986
Anti-gay demonstration.

alon reininger | contact press

AIDS Photo

Federal Plaza, Manhattan, June 30, 1987
In ACT UP’s founding year, members demonstrate and perform civil disobedience to call attention to an unresponsive President Reagan, and to push for AIDS drugs, research and funding.

Donna Binder

AIDS Photo

Brooklyn, 1987
Under the WIlliamsburg Bridge.

Sylvia Plachy

Queen Photo

Federal Plaza, Manhattan, June 30, 1987
In ACT UP’s founding year, members demonstrate and perform civil disobedience to call attention to an unresponsive President Reagan, and to push for AIDS drugs, research and funding.

Donna Binder

AIDS Photo

Manhattan, March 24, 1988
Mark Harrington, a member of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), is arrested at a demonstation to lower the prices for AIDS drugs. ACT UP returned to Wall Street for a larger demonstration in which more than 100 people were arrested.

Richard Renaldi

AIDS Photo

Brooklyn 1989
ACT UP demonstration at Kings County Hospital.

TL Litt

AIDS Photo

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Manhattan, December 10, 1989
A ziptied ACT UP protester is removed from inside St. Patrick's Cathedral during the Stop the Church direct action.

Brian Palmer

AIDS Photo

Manhattan, 1989
ACT UP demonstrates against price gouging by pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome, the company that manufactured AIDS drug AZT.

thomas mcgovern

AIDS Photo

Manhattan 1989
ACT UP at the Gay Pride Parade.

TL Litt

AIDS Photo

Manhattan,1989
ACT UP performs civil disobedience at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

tomas muscionico | contact press

AIDS Photo

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Manhattan 1990
Members of ACT UP and WHAM! protesting the Catholic Church's policies on homosexuality and safe sex education as the AIDS epidemic raged on. Protesters inside the church stood silently displaying signs and ACT UP literature as others chanted outside.

Meryl Levin

AIDS Photo

Waldorf Astoria, Manhattan 1990
AIDS activists demonstrate against President George H.W. Bush.

Dona Ann McAdams

AIDS Photo

Waldorf Astoria, 1990
ACT UP at The Waldorf Astoria.

Dona Ann McAdams

AIDS Photo

Manhattan, 1990
ACT UP demonstration at Grand Central Station.

Donna Binder

AIDS Photo

Manhattan, June 23, 1990
Gay Pride Parade.

Les Stone

AIDS Photo

Manhattan
ACT UP members disrupt a fundraiser at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel attended by President George H.W. Bush to demand more funding and support for curing HIV/AIDS.

Thomas McGovern

AIDS Photo

Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, June 1991
ACT UP die-in at the LBGT Pride Parade.

Donna Binder

AIDS Photo

Manhattan, September 11, 1991
Members of ACT UP march from Beekman Hospital to City Hall during a demonstration against the mandatory testing of healthcare workers.

Meryl Levin

AIDS Photo

Grand Central Station 1991
ACT UP demonstrators hang a banner in Grand Central Station.

thomas mcgovern

AIDS Photo

Manhattan, 1992
Memorial march for artist David Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS.

Brian Palmer

AIDS Photo

1992
Yakima Sandoval touches her late father Willie's forehead at his funeral after Willie died of AIDS-related complications.

Thomas McGovern

AIDS Photo

East Village, July 1993
ACT UP political funeral for Jon Greenberg, who died of AIDS.

donna binder

AIDS Photo

Manhattan, July 22, 1993
AIDS activist James Baggett and friends carry the coffin of fellow activist Jon Greenberg through the streets of New York City during a political funeral. Greenberg died from AIDS on July 12, 1993.

thomas mcgovern

AIDS Photo

Manhattan, July 22, 1993
Friends consoling one another at the political funeral for Jon Greenberg, who died from AIDS on July 12, 1993.

thomas mcgovern

AIDS Photo

City Hall, March 22, 1994
Activist James Baggett during an AIDS demonstration at City Hall.

thomas mcgovern

AIDS Photo

Manhattan, April 25, 1995
In a coordinated protest to draw awareness and build opposition to the proposed state and city budget cuts by Governor Pataki and Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a coalition of hundreds of activists that included students and professors from the City University of New York, the homeless, health care workers, AIDS activists, the disabled and families of people killed by the police, blocked two bridges and two tunnels in Manhattan during the height of the rush hour. The most serious rush hour disruption occurred at the Midtown Tunnel where some 75 demonstrators shut down all six lanes feeding into the tunnel entrance.

Carolina Kroon