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Historically, the national and international response to the HIV epidemic lagged behind the passionate work of dedicated individuals who tended the sick, challenged prejudices against people living with HIV, educated their communities, and fought for resources and research. Acknowledging the crucial work of all AIDS activists, Why We Fight focuses on the contributions of those whose work was undertaken in New York City, which was an early epicenter for both the recognition of the disease and the grassroots response to the epidemic. The New York Public Library is a major repository for this history, preserving the archives of key organizations and individuals that have been pivotal in the response to AIDS.
Now through April 6, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
The Oscar®-nominated documentary HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE is the story of two coalitions — ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group)—whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from an automatic death sentence into a mostly manageable condition. Despite having no scientific training, these self-made activists infiltrated the pharmaceutical industry and helped identify promising new drugs, moving them from experimental trials to patients in record time. Today 8 million people are alive thanks to their work. Using a treasure trove of never-before-seen footage from the 1980s and '90s, filmmaker David France puts the viewer smack in the middle of the controversial actions, the heated meetings, the heartbreaking failures, and the exultant breakthroughs of heroes in the making.
From the Exhibition
In 1989, ACT UP turned its attentions to then mayor of New York Ed Koch, taking his administration to task for what activists felt was an insufficient response to the HIV epidemic in the city. The group called for increased support for the Health and Hospitals Corporation to meet the mounting AIDS caseload; housing for the thousands of homeless New Yorkers living with HIV; prevention education and treatment for the city’s 200,000 users of injection drugs; and AIDS education in public schools. Five thousand people marched on City Hall, and more than 200 people were arrested as they blocked traffic in downtown Manhattan.
Featured Blog Post
Guest post by Avram Finkelstein.
As a founding member of the political collective that produced the image most closely associated with AIDS activism, Silence=Death, I'm frequently asked to speak about this poster. Over the decades people have thanked me for it, telling me the poster was the rallying cry that drew them to political activism.
In the mainstream media, People with AIDS were portrayed as either helpless victims who deserved to die of this gruesome disease or as innocent babies. People with AIDS and their allies had to discover not only how to force the government to provide necessary services, but how to portray the true, complicated story of the AIDS epidemic
A Hard Reigns Gonna Fall, Dean Lance, 8 min., 1990
Testing the Limits, Testing the Limits, 27 min., 1987
Tuesday, December 3, 2013, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
is the Lead Corporate Sponsor of the Why We Fight exhibition and related programming.
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Hermes Mallea and Carey Maloney, with additional support from the LGBT Initiative of The New York Public Library. Time Warner is a founding supporter of the LGBT Initiative.
Support for The New York Public Library’s Exhibitions Program has been provided by Celeste Bartos, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos Exhibitions Fund, and Jonathan Altman.