Group Work: ACT UP

In this mini unit, you and your group will learn about the organization ACT UP, which was founded by Larry Kramer after he left the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. This research work will take your group today’s and tomorrow’s class periods to complete. This is a glossary of ACT UP now terms that might be useful.

  1. Read about the history of the organization and discuss it with your group. Note important dates and facts.
  2. Read this timeline of ACT UP.


    Each group member should:


  • choose 2-3 years to explore more deeply,
  • choose a significant action from each of the years
  • fill out the graphic organizer with the actions you have chosen
  • Discuss these with your group

12 thoughts on “Group Work: ACT UP

  1. ACT UP used zaps, political theater and politicized art, transformation of emotion intro enraged action, and laying the framework for a government- run and funded project to fight HIV/AIDS. ACT UP’s methods forced groups to pay attention to PWA demands and address an issue that was often taboo or politically dangerous.

    ACT UP techniques were successful because their methods were able to bring awareness to those who wasn’t aware. Back then people used to shun away from the topic but because of their tactics it was somewhat impossible and that’s why they chose these methods because they knew the outcome would help many.

    The ACT UP’s message has changed over the years by spreading it out to the media and letting it be more known to others around the world. They are still protesting for people to be aware of what’s going on. Also so people can know how they feel and how people have been affected by this. They speak with people of power to try to get support and get messages out to the other people.

    Our group had a different reaction to these articles. Some of us are wondering why this movement took so long to make a law. Why did it take so long to have someone do something about it when it’s such a big deal. We also wonder why people were still putting themselves at risk already knowing the consequences. Our reactions to how many activist participated was surprising.

    8/8 🙂


  2. During 1987 ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) was created by the gay and lesbian communities in New York to raise awareness of the Aids crisis that has affected New York. The crisis was seen as an unimportant issue because it was mostly affecting the gay communities so ACT UP knew that they needed to get the awareness out themselves. To spread awareness,they used civil disobedience at various locations throughout New York, calling for greater access to anti-AIDS meds and national policies to fight the disease. They also chained themselves to the VIP balcony In the New York Stock Exchange as a form of protest for high ATZ prices,and started large demonstrations in certain facilities and businesses. They brought their own reasons and voice to the public get the help that the crisis needed.
    The methods used by the ACT UP organization helped create awareness and to bring the idea of aids being a homosexual diseases. The ways that they brought their ideas out using ways that people will notice and be forced to pay attention to. They knew places that would be filled with people so they took their issues there to be heard and to get the awareness out even if they didn’t have the support from the city. The creation of the Silence = Death project is still being used to help people raise their reasons out to the public so they can finally get the chance that they wanted. If they don’t speak up then you are only killing your voice and ideas of change.
    As of right now, it seems the struggle to garner attention and raise awareness of HIV/AIDS is no longer necessary as the vast majority of society is now aware of this disease and there are many treatments and services available for individuals who have it.The main goal that the organization seeks to achieve has seemed to become less about spreading the word of AIDS and more about making sure screening processes for the disease are being carried out properly and frequently.However they still will protest high med prices when necessary..Right now, they seek to advocate safe-sex and make sure sexual health services are properly funded.
    Our groups members responses are that we thought it was impressive because of all the effort they were willing to go through to get to where they are now. It was also inspiring because they had all of their ideas planned out. They were organized and had strong messages that resonated with the crisis going on at that time. They knew where and when to go make their sure that their plans requests were heard out.
    8/8 🙂


  3. 1. The techniques that ACT UP has used to bring attention to HIV/AIDS is they have done a protests against the FDA to make drugs cheaper because it was $10,000 per person. When they protest they protest for specific things. They zapped people to get them to implement their ACT UP plans. ACT UP zapped candidate Jerry Brown at Brooklyn Borough Hall. Also, they had marches and they disrupted George Bush’s speech on August 20,1992. AIDS activists protested and international medical conference on AIDS to bring attention to things the conference wasn’t addressing. They protested at Wall Street and Cosmopolitan magazine and brought patient refugees to New York who had low T-cell count and housed them.
    2. We do believe their methods are successful because it brought attention and they protested so often and so quickly that the nation had to notice. They have been successful because they had supporters all the way and they had a lot of persuasive speakers that spoke out. It also led to change in the world. AIDS activists made it known that they weren’t going to stop fighting until they got the changes they wanted.
    3. ACT UP’s messages have changed over the years because they fought for different problems. They aren’t protesting the same thing as of now because there is equality for them now. AIDS isn’t as much of a problem as it used to be because they are finding more information out about it and there is more medicine for it. Now they are still protesting for drug costs.

    You guys didn’t answer the 4th question, the group reflection. 6/8 :/


  4. 1. The same month that it was formed, a group of ACT UP members made a demonstration on wall street in New York to demand greater access to the experimental drugs. They brought attention to HIV/AIDS by chaining themselves to the New York times stock exchange balcony. During the demonstrations that happened over the course of years, there was more than 100 arrests. One of the best demonstrations that they had was when ACT UP shut down the FDA for a day. It brought so much media attention nationally.They also peacefully protested by doing sit-ins,demos, and so much more.
    2. We think that the methods of ACT UP were very successful. They were able to get the media’s attention, people’s attention and the government’s attention and they were persuading them make a change. I think that they chose these types of actions because they are the most effective in bringing attention and making change, and that is what their goal was. Unlike other radical groups, they were trying to make a political change, similar to the civil rights movement with MLK. Therefore many of their methods of non violence were similar to the civil rights movement because they wanted political change.
    3. They chanted during protests and events for AIDS but got bored of their chants so they decided to add in some flavor like jokes and sex. They started their movement with AIDS, but after that they added Women, HIV, IV drugs use, homophobia, people of color, testing program for HIV, prison program, AIDS housing, children with AIDS and police brutality in their movement. However, they are still til this day protesting and raising awareness for AIDS because they want people to know that they are still here and fighting for the movement and opening it up with various of new things. They also want to acknowledge the fact that without the strong devotion and fighting from ACT Up then the AIDS research would be behind so far and many people would have gotten the disease.
    4. All of our group members found that the reading and discussion are really interesting and fascinating. Through the discussion, we found out that ACT UP is a really powerful movement and it is really helpful to different issue and group of people, not only gay men with AIDS. While our group discussed the questions, we were having the same reaction with each other when we could able to find the answer to the question. When we see that other member had missed something, we remind them to add it in or we did the adding ourselves. We worked cooperatively and respectfully to each other to finish the work fast, effective, and on time. Moreover, because our group member were already having and learning some basic information about ACT UP before discussed the questions, the questions or answer doesn’t surprise, shock or anything to us. Therefore, our group wasn’t really having any different reaction as we discussed the questions. 8/8 🙂


  5. ACT UP has worked to improve the public awareness of HIV/AIDS by doing demonstrations. Their first demonstration as a group was on Wall Street in 1987; about 17 ACT UP members were arrested during what was called, a civil disobedience. As the years progressed they continued to fight for “AIDS Rights”; however their methods gradually became more and more extreme. Extreme in the sense of creativity. Some of their techniques included chaining themselves to the VIP balcony of the New York Stock Exchange building. They have also shut down the Food & Drug Admission for a day in 1988. They used the media as their main source of getting their word out.

    As a group we believe that their methods are successful because they force other groups to focus on People With AIDS (PWAs) and address any issues that was wrong or dangerous to be public. ACT UP’s influence continues on today to other groups having difficulty getting their message out to the public and have them engage. We think they chose these types of actions because they believe that was the only way to get what they wanted.

    ACT up’s messages changed over the years by now demanding the Drugs Administrator and U.S Food to shorten the drug approval process and push Medicaid be forced to pay for experimental drug therapist. When raising awareness, they wanted to make programs or help fund them so that condoms could be distributed. They wanted to have serious lessons on sex to inform them of what is going on. From 1987, publicized charged prices for pharmacuetical companies. A sign of protest that they had recently had was to expose their bodies and show nudity to show the truth about HIV fundings getting cut.

    Each and everyone one of us would have used a different approach to get to the solution. We were not so much shocked that they fought for their rights; we were more shocked in the fact that the right took years to come become a basic right. We all understand that determination is the key and value the fact that they were determined for many years. We all agreed that the actions were reasonable. We continued to question why the government would not try to help. As activists, we admire how determined they were to achieve their main goal.
    8/8 🙂


  6. 1. The techniques ACT UP used to bring attention to HIV/AIDS was that they demonstrated Wall Street in New York, the FDA and the general post offices. By demonstrating Wall St. it caused them to lower the price of the drug AZT allowing it to be affordable for people. The FDA demonstration resulted in shutting down for only a day but this was powerful because media had coverage over it, influencing a powerful message to spread across the US. Also the postal office was affected by encouraging people filing last minute tax returns.
    2. As a group we believe that their methods were successful in achieving their primary goal. Act Up worked hard in completing their tasks as a unified group. What helped make their movement so successful was the community and communication aspect of their group. They tried to stay nonviolent as best they could and at times the passion that they all held in their hearts took the better of them, creating a certain tension in their actions.
    3. In a way Act Up is still the same message. But they are most focused on those who are addicted to drugs and using dirty syringes when it comes to being infected with HIV. They’ve spread their radar over all topics of human right issues and their impact worldwide. Act Up raises awareness on many of the current issues, yet they bring attention to what most people do not notice or realize about them.
    4. The feelings were to a certain extent mutual. There was a kind of respect to those who were a part of the movement. Although the questions were simple, they had to be researched for a specific answer. There was a lot of information when it came to pinpointing the exact answer, which caused frustration in one rather than the other. At the end of the day the answers to these questions may stay in our mind but may not stay in our hearts. The information was interesting but as a person of this day and age it is hard to wrap your mind around this kind of activism being real. 8/8 🙂


  7. The ACT UP bring attention to HIV/AIDS by protesting about things that they want and believed.For example, they demonstrated on Wall Street to demand access to experimental AIDs drugs. In San Francisco bringing awareness was pretty pretty interesting with the fact that they would protest to keep the AIDS act alive and known. They would also throw parties to celebrate those who were dead and march for everyone being part of that community.
    They choose demonstrations because they want to give awareness to society. They want to raise awareness to society. Their method of demonstrations worked when they successfully shut down the Food & Drug Administration on October 11, 1988. As a group they wanted to show everyone that AIDS weren’t going to stop them from being who they were. They knew that if they kept on pushing forward with everything that they did they would bring awareness to their community and the ones around them that had AIDS. They simply wanted to make everyone feel better about themselves when the ones against them simply kept on doubting them.
    In the beginning years of ACT UP, they wanted to bring awareness about HIV/AIDS to the nation. Also they wanted to educate others to have safe sex. Over the years, they had many protest and marches to spread awareness. Later on, they started to focus on healthcare to be universal.
    We all were shocked at what was occurring. We believe that the methods are successful. If it wasn’t for this movement, AIDS wouldn’t be a known topic now. We did not view the world was like back in the day, so being able to read about it provides us with a better knowledge of what happened.
    8/8 🙂


  8. Angelica T. / John P. / Jonathan P.

    1.Some techniques that Act Up used to bring up the attention of A.I.D.S and H.I.V. is demonstrating. The ACT Up marched many demonstrations that meant to voice the spread of awareness for AIDS killing of millions of LGBTQI folks and population. Techniques that was demonstrated in these marches were sit-ins, die-ins, and art actions that resemble form of activism. There was also the technique that the organization brought in community members with many delegates to give out speeches and updates on the improvement for this movement on AIDS to be treated in some way. These techniques enable empowerment for the ACT Up organization to be alive and ongoing with the mission.

    2.Our group thinks that their methods were not entirely successful. We think that their methods were not entirely successful because it took the FDA a long time to develop the drugs. Not only did the FDA took their time to start researching which drugs can effectively defend against HIV, the government did not put enough effort into helping the FDA and the LGBTQ community with it. They chose these types of actions because not only were they running out of time, they were also being denied of a litany of things.

    3.Most of the people who were protesting were full on activists, they loved what they were doing and they tried their hardest to have a change in the AIDS epidemic. They had conferences and protests were going on everywhere; demos, sit-ins, die-ins, art actions. They did whatever they needed to do to have their point across. They aren’t protesting anymore, but Kingston and several others are hosting a series of commemorative events Fri/19-Sun/21 that address the historical legacy of the protests, reunite key members of the Bay Area ACT UP movement, and hopefully help educate a new generation about a key period in queer history. They still want it to be available for the queer community.

    4.As a whole group, the members seem to all have different reactions wanting to do techniques because others believe that it will bring in more members to be a part of the movement and organization or that it wasn’t so relevant since demonstrations would take and be a long-term process. The members have different reactions because of our different belief of what the government and the FDA were doing. The members had different ways to cope with the problem, some with conferences and protests.

    8/8 🙂


  9. CKyne, JLy, ESaefong
    AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) used protests and documents as a technique to bring attention to HIV/AIDS. They were able to use the help of many individuals and groups such as women, and companies that allied with ACT UP. With the protests and documents, they were able to show people in the community how the authorities were avoiding to face the problems.Our group believes ACT UP technique was very successful, because it made history. Plus it made people who wasn’t involved wanted to join. It forced the FDA to speed up their process of testing drugs, and finally approved the drug that many people with HIV needed. They chose to target the most important people that would have the biggest impact on making the world a better place for PWA to live in. They knew this was the only way that they could get the attention of people who did not care about AIDS or persuade others to join them.ACT UP’s messages have changed over the years based on how much power that they hold, and how much control they can have over a certain situation. ACT UP understands how situations are crafted today, and how complex they have gotten, so now they can use an appropriate amount of power and the appropriate technique. To this day, they are still protesting, they are doing that as one, hoping to benefit all that participates with ACT UP. They will continue to act upon the wrongs that the government and other authority members are doing to affect those individuals and families within their community.As our group discussed about the activist group, ACT UP, before doing research information. Our reactions were similar because we’ve been learning a lot about this topic, like we were specialists. We’re all supportive of their actions, and how they approached each situation as they fight for civil rights. We all feel like they made a difference in so many people lives and we respect them for they actions.
    8/8 🙂


  10. 1. ACT UP was an organization that impacted lives of people with AIDS. It was formed in March 1987, with their motto being “Silence = Death.” It was created to bring political awareness on the issue of AIDS, because other organizations such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis weren’t politically involved in the issue. Throughout their history they have participated in many actions that include, “ …non-violent direct action, often using vocal demonstrations and dramatic acts of civil disobedience, focuses attention on the crucial issues of the AIDS crisis”(ACT UP Capsule History). They got many people involved with every action to show that AIDS is an important issue. They got attention from the media, like in the action in which went against Cosmos’s article that “Women can’t get AIDS”. But it was a lie and people needed to know that the government were not protecting those who were affected, because at this point many gay men as well as IV drug users were the ones suffering the most.
    2.As a group their methods were very powerful. They were able to attract a large group of supporters to their protest. It branched out to fight the different issues such as the FDA not doing anything with medication that is being withheld. I think they chose those types of actions because they were the correct ones and the safe ones. They also chose those actions so they could be heard because they kept sending cards for them to be heard but they wouldn’t send a response.
    3. ACT UP’s message changed over the years by protesting for different purposes. In the beginning, they protested for organizations to speed up the research process and the rights of people with AIDS to receive the appropriate medication. For example, the funding of this organization started because a group of people believed that the health organizations weren’t aware and didn’t take AIDS as an urge to look for a cure. Then, they fought for the right of education so students can be educated about AIDS and how to have safe sex. For example, an article we read in the timeline website states,” In January 16, 1991, Lead by the YELL (Youth Education Lifeline) Committee of ACT UP, activists and high school students demand immediate approval of the condom distribution plan proposed by Public School Chancellor Fernandez. YELL and the students also demand that the ‘counseling’ and parental consent portions of the plan be withdrawn and replaced with a revised AIDS education program that deals honestly with AIDS transmission, prevention and sexuality.” Over the years, the awareness they try to raise change because after one victory, they move to another.
    4.As we were discussing the question we agreed to the fact that ACT UP created a voice for the community. A community that was never heard got a chance to speak about about the issues that affect them. An event included September 30, 1991: ACT UP targets President Bush at the White House, declaring that, with over 120,000 Americans died from AIDS, the President is getting away with murder. In a loud and angry march to the White House, activists demanded that the President stop his deliberate policy of neglect. They brought public attention that made officials rethink what they were doing. Not everyone had a place where they felt like they belonged, but in ACT UP there was a community where people did belong.
    8/8 🙂


  11. What techniques has ACT UP used to bring attention to HIV/AIDS?
    ACT UP was effectively formed in March 1987. ACT UP used protests as a form of technique to bring attention to HIV/AIDS. They protested to help educate the new generations about the queer history. AIDS activists protested the international medical conference on AIDS because they want to bring attention to things that the conference didn’t sufficiently addressed. There will be panels, a march to honor the dead, and a party. On March 24, 1987, 250 ACT UP members demonstrated at Wall Street and Broadway to demand greater access to experimental AIDS drugs and for a coordinated national policy to fight the disease. March 24, 1988- larger demonstration on Wall st. Then on October 11, 1988 ACT UP most successful demonstration- shut down Food & Drug Administration. They held demonstrations in different states around 1990. As well in 1988 they released a documentary about the action concerning women and HIV, “Doctors,Liars, and Women: AIDS activists say no to Cosmo”. This brought a lot of attention and got recognition for the truth.
    As a group, do you think their methods are successful? Why or why not? Why do you think they chose these types of actions?
    ACT UP’s methods are successful because some of the demonstration did make a change while others may not have been very efficient. On another note they are sometimes successful because protesting can lead to meetings in City Hall to address the issues. They also bring broad wide attention because they show meaningful messages through their creative demonstrations. We think that ACT UP chose these types of actions because protesting is very common throughout many organizations and it brings attention to the nation. Their methods were also very successful due to the determination of the active people in ACT UP, they constantly planned everything well from sending a message through their image; to what specific areas to protest at. They were also very prepared when it came to their goals and acted on each area carefully and mindfully. Their messages were always so powerful and usually brought media attention very quickly which benefitted them to the greatest.
    How have ACT UP’s messages changed over the years? Are they still protesting and trying to raise awareness about the same things?
    ACT UP’s messages changed over the years by being more creative and meaningful. They’ve gotten more members to participate and fight for issues concerning public health. In the beginning years. ACT UP wanted to educate the nation about HIV/AIDS by holding many protests, making quilts, signs, chants, etc. Whereas now, they are focusing on wide range of public health issues such as insurance issues, Black Lives Matters, etc. As ACT UP became more widely known, it has been focusing on HIV/AIDS throughout most of the years, but now also support public health issues. ACT UP is so inspirational they have been definitely been very active lately from social media to everything. They constantly remind people that HIV/AIDS is still alive and there is a lot of cases of discrimination. They also partner with other activists groups and fight; a very special day when queers came out for Black Lives Matter and came with a creative way of protesting.
    Last, write a short reflection for your group. Did members have different reactions as you discussed the questions? How did those reactions differ?
    Most of us have the same perspectives of the discussion questions. Because we come from the same community, we perceive the world similarly. Grow up in a certain environment makes you experience different situations, which creates different perspectives. My group was very amazing and cooperative we all had similar reactions due to our ways of thinking.
    8/8 🙂


  12. Mike D.
    Aliya T.
    Michelle C.

    1. The techniques that ACT UP used to bring attention to HIV/AIDS is protesting, hosting events to educate more people, and of course they have a party and march in honor of the dead. With the protest the make sure to protest where they can be heard like an international medical conference for AIDS. ACT UP has connected with other activist groups to show how powerful the people are, and to call out those that has “AIDS-phobia” like the police that arrested with gloves on. They also made history by stopping trading with the stock exchange floor. In order to bring awareness members would distribute condoms and candy to talk about the dangers of unprotected sex and what AIDS are, the youth also took part in this.

    2. As a group we think their methods were successful because the methods they used brought out more attention to the issue, aids. The government wasn’t going to do anything about it but to let people who are infected with HIV die. The FDA was responsible for testing possible AIDS treatment but they were taking too long. The process for FDA to test for a possible AIDS treatment could have taken anywhere from 5-10 years and the protesters wanted the FDA to stop slacking and do your job because there are people dying. Protesters constantly protested in front of the FDA building to show that they were angry at the FDA for not doing their job. They chose to protest in front of the FDA building because FDA knew that the protest won’t stop until they do their job.

    3. ACT UP messages changed over the years by addressing different issues. The issues still relate to AIDS but in another way. Back then protesters fought the government because they wanted the government to do something about it. Today AIDS isn’t something that is big as it was back then because now people are being treated for it and it’s under control. Today protesters still protest and try to raise awareness. They want to inform as many people as possible and prevent anymore people getting AIDS. In Uganda there was a Zero Condom Policy to help prevent people from getting HIV. Through the Zero Condom Policy, Uganda was able to lower the HIV rate from 15% to 6%.

    4. While discussing the questions with our group members, we all had similar ideas and reactions. We knew that there was definitely discrimination going on. If HIV/AIDS had nothing to do with being gay then the government would have immediately started working on dealing with the case. FDA would have started quicker on testing out the next possible AIDS treatment. We all think that it was smart for ACT UP to inform everyone about AIDS and what’s going on because it saved lives. ACT UP informed the people about what wasn’t told to the public. 8/8 🙂


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