ACT UP To Hack Up For National Coming Out Day

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Wednesday October 9, 2013

On the heels of their successful Oct. 4 "Die-in" at the New York Public Library, ACT UP/New York is calling all digital activists to join a two-day Hackathon during National Coming Out Day weekend, Oct. 12-13. The AIDS activist group will challenge new generations of programmers, designers and volunteers to pioneer the group's approach to HIV prevention and AIDS activism in the digital age.

"The war on HIV must now be fought in the palm of one's hand," said Mathew Rodriguez of ACT UP. "If our generation wishes to be intensely social while intensely anti-social, we have to tap into that. As cliché as it may sound, we've got to make an app for that."

Organizers say that their ACT UP/Fight Back/HACK AIDS campaign will be focused on creating online tools for HIV/AIDS education and prevention. Participants do not need not understand code to join the event, as activists, designers, students, writers, engineers, librarians, doctors, students, lawyers, researchers, musicians and coders will be welcomed with open arms.

ACT UP's past campaigns and protests have been immortalized in the Oscar-nominated documentary "How to Survive a Plague," and via the New York Public Library exhibition, but activists insist that while it is necessary and respectful to remember the past, the LGBT community must focus its attention on the present fight.

Unless the community takes action now, more than half of today's young gay men and transgender women may become HIV-positive by age 50, according to estimates based on current epidemiological data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ACT UP has called the rise in new infections a new wave HIV epidemic, or AIDS 2.0, to explain the dramatic effect it will have on an entire generation of young people.

"We desperately need more resources and new talent to engage in today's fight against rising rates of incidence and the criminalization of HIV," said Bacilio Mendez II, co-chair of the Queer Caucus of the National Lawyers Guild and the Chair of ACT UP/DAWG (the Digital Activism Working Group).

Mendez proposes that ACT UP and other organizations need to think inventively and radically about how to reach people via their screens, where they are most likely to be first exposed to information about HIV.

"We are creating a new movement to inspire the next generation to join ACT UP in the fight to end AIDS," Mendez said.

The hackathon concept is gaining popularity as a form of political protest. In September, EDGE reported on Trans*H4CK, the world's first transgender hackathon aimed to address issues specific to the transgender community.

To learn more about the ACT UP hackathon, visit

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.