It’s been over twenty years since the peak of the AIDS crisis, and evidence of activists’ fight for recognition and action can still be found all around the city. People With AIDS plaza is located right outside City Hall. Thousands of people participate in the AIDS Walk every year in Central Park. Still, twenty years is a long time, and many have forgotten (or are too young to remember) the fight for civil rights that took place as AIDS began to spread.
Currently, two films are doing their part to change that. How To Survive a Plague, directed by journalist David France, tells the story of ACT UP! and TAG (Treatment Action Group), and how they demanded better attention and treatment to the thousands suffering from HIV/AIDS. United In Anger: A History of Act Up also takes a look at how ACT UP! was formed, by taking the viewer behind-the-scenes as they planned protests of the FDA, Wall Street, and the National Institute of Health. You can watch the trailer here, featuring an old news segment in which Tom Brokaw reports that “50% of American favor quarantine for AIDS victims; 15% said AIDS victims should be tattooed.”
HIV/AIDS is still an issue in America. There are currently over one million people living with HIV in the United States alone. But this awareness and willingness to fight the disease wouldn’t have been possible if not for these brave groups, who ended up changing the way we react to catastrophic disease. The New-York Historical Society will address this activism, and the affect the disease had on medicine, public health, and the lives of all New Yorkers, in the upcoming exhibition AIDS in New York: The First Five Years. World AIDS Day is tomorrow, December 1, a day to commemorate those who have died and to renew the fight against HIV. But let us all remember that it takes more than a day to remember, and much longer than that to fight.