Anti-AIDs Activism

Featured Site

  • ACT UP New York. The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power is a life-saving, aesthetico-politically imaginative organization that has indeed unleashed great power. The New York branch is only one of many local ACT UP groups.

Key Sites

Books and Articles

ACT UP/New York Women and AIDS Book Group. Women, AIDS, and Activism. Boston: South End Press, 1990. Important book in bringing to light the underreported impact of AIDS on women and girls.

Barnett, Tony, and Alan Whiteside. AIDS in the Twenty-First Century: Disease and Globalization. London: Palgrave, 2003. Clear, accessible, and nuanced study of the economic, social, and cultural impact of HIV/AIDS around the world, with special focus on the complexities of the African context.

Crimp, Douglas, ed. AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1988. Very influential collection of essays on ACT UP and other early forms of resistance to the silence around the AIDS crisis.

Crimp, Douglas, and Adam Ralston. AIDS DemoGraphics. Seattle: Bay Press, 1990. The key book exemplifying and contextualizing ACT UP’s posters and other visual art.

Epstein, Steven. Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. Most comprehensive study of the medical activism surrounding HIV/AIDS science.

Gamson, Joshua. “Silence, Death, and the Invisible Enemy: AIDS Activism and Social Movement Newness.” In Ethnography Unbound, ed. Michael Burawoy et al. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991, 35–57.

Irwin, Alexander, Joyce Millen, and Dorothy Fallows. Global AIDS: Myths and Facts; Tools for Fighting the AIDS Pandemic. Boston: South End Press, 2003. At once an introduction to issues and a tool kit for activists.

Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1984. Key text in the evolution of lesbian of color theory.

Miller, James, ed. Fluid Exchanges: Artists and Critics in the AIDS Crisis. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992. Broad anthology that touches on the power and limits of art in various HIV/AIDS activist contexts.

Patton, Cindy. Inventing AIDS. New York: Routledge, 1990. Crucial intellectual-activist text that influenced many in ACT UP to think more critically about AIDS discourses.

Schulman, Sarah. Stagestruck: Theater, AIDS, and the Marketing of Gay America. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998. Rich study of theater as a site of AIDS activism but also of commercialization of a crisis.

Sturken, Marita. Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, the AIDS Epidemic, and the Politics of Remembering. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Includes a rich study of the politics of representation surrounding the AIDS Quilt.

Treichler, Paula A.How to Have Theory in an Epidemic: Cultural Chronicles of AIDS. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999. Absolutely indispensable for understanding the cultural languages and codes of the AIDS pandemic. Treichler’s essays, originally consumed in an activist context, show brilliantly and precisely why you need theory (even) in an epidemic, and what theory can do for activists.

Vaid, Urvashi. Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation. New York: Doubleday, 1995. One of the most comprehensive studies of the gay/lesbian/queer movement, including a critical assessment of the successes and limits of ACT UP.

Warner, Michael, ed. Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993. Major collection of essays in the evolution of queer social and social movement theory. See especially the pieces by Seidman and Patton.


Angels in America. Directed by Mike Nichols. HBO Films, 2003. Brilliant film adaptation of Tony Kushner’s play set in the midst of the rise of the AIDS crisis.

Pandemic: Facing AIDS. Directed by Rory Kennedy. HBO Films, 2005. Documentary series in five half-hour segments that examines worldwide AIDS epidemic in both personal and broad social terms.

Further Research