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Why We Fight: Remembering AIDS Activism

Why We Fight: Remembering AIDS Activism

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.

October 4th, 2013 - April 6th, 2014 Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

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Featured Video

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP

 United in Anger: A History of ACT UP is an inspiring documentary about the birth and life of the AIDS activist movement from the perspective of the people in the trenches fighting the epidemic. Utilizing oral histories of members of ACT UP, as well as rare archival footage, the film depicts the efforts of ACT UP as it battles corporate greed, social indifference, and government neglect. The documentary draws extensively on original video in the Library's Manuscripts & Archives division, including footage from the ACT UP Oral History Project.

From the Exhibition

Douglas Rowell. Photograph of Target City Hall Action, 1989

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.

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Featured Blog Post

A Prophecy Before Our Time: The Gay Men’s Health Project Clinic Opens in 1972, Part Two: A Wasted Opportunity

Guest post by Perry Brass.

Lenny Ebreo, Marc Rabinowitz, and I were thrilled about the forum that took place at Washington Square Methodist Church in 1972. Because of the forum, Lenny now had some connection with the New York City Department of Public Health, which after John Lindsey's administration had been re-organized around local community health centers. He began to fixate on the 

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Featured Event

How to ACT UP

Learn the nuts and bolts of grassroots political activism from current and former members of the historic AIDS advocacy group ACT UP. Veteran activists will share their experience with outreach, planning demonstrations, working with media, and civil disobedience.

Beginning in 1987 with an action calling out Wall Street profiteering on AIDS drugs, ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, significantly improved HIV drug development, championed HIV prevention, cared for its 

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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.