"AIDS Is Not History" Says ACT UP In Die-In at NYC Public Library

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Monday October 7, 2013

Activists from ACT UP New York registered their disapproval with the New York Public Library's exhibition on AIDS activism with an Oct. 4 die-in. More than thirty ACT UP members and allies collected in the exhibit room and died-in on the marble floor of Astor Hall to raise awareness about present-day HIV-related issues and to let people know that AIDS is not history.

"I'm a librarian/archivist and an HIV/AIDS activist here in NYC and I died-in to show that while we should be respecting the activists and the work that has come before us, AIDS by no means is over and should not be memorialized as if it is," said Bacilio Mendez II, Chair of ACT UP/DAWG (the Digital Activism Working Group). Mendez is one of the members organizing an ACT UP hackathon, on Oct. 12-13, to challenge new generations of programmers, designers and volunteers to pioneer the group's approach to HIV prevention and AIDS activism in the digital age.

With HIV incidence rates rising in New York City, especially among young men of color and transgender women, ACT UP has recently declared war on what it deems a new HIV epidemic, or AIDS 2.0. More than half of today's young gay men and transgender women may become HIV-positive by age 50, according to projections based of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention HIV data.

Activists seek to mobilize a more robust community response and they demand that the New York City department of health deliver on a promised public education campaign about the HIV prevention treatments PEP and PrEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis).

"Twenty-five years ago members of ACT UP NY sat in at the office of the NYC department of health to protest, and the department had no idea how many New Yorkers were living with HIV infection, so it made up the numbers," said Jim Eigo, a longtime ACT UP member. "Twenty-five years later HIV is on the rise again in some New York neighborhoods. The department has failed to collect the information we need so the city can effectively target its HIV prevention services."

The New York Public Library exhibition, "Why We Fight: Remembering AIDS Activism," showcases many of the vibrant posters, pamphlets and artifacts from the 1980s and '90s that mobilized a response to the epidemic, but the library has also created a striking lineup of public programming, including programs directed at young people.

"Teaching young people about the history of AIDS and LGBT activism allows them to connect with a tradition of empowerment that occurred before they were politically conscious," said Mendez. "But if we want new generations to repurpose these tools of activism and empowerment to fight HIV today, we have to start with the statement: AIDS is Not History!"

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/actupny/

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.