Feb 222012
ACT UP front sheet

ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) did more than just unleash a cutoff jeans, t-shirt, and black leather jacket with boots fad. It started a revolution. In March, the organization turns 25. Local activist Michael Petrelis, who was/is a part of the action, notes: “It was on that date in 1987 that my old friend Larry Kramer gave a speech at the gay community center in New York City, and that meeting is recognized as the first meeting of what was to become ACT UP.”

And here’s the flyer that announced the very first ACT UP demonstration, complete with amends by Kramer.

Petrelis goes on to report more about the group’s demands and why the word “gay” was intentionally omitted:

The flyer otherwise lists what were at the time considered very radical demands – quicker drug approval, revamping clinical trials, affordable treatments, massive public eduction, political leadership, an end to discrimination against people with AIDS – and many of the things we wanted came about, through targeted anger and activism.

Quite interesting that the word “gay” is omitted from the flyer, I imagine, because AIDS was seen by many average folks and the mainstream media as a “gay disease” and part of our agenda was to define AIDS as an infection that struck gay and straight people. A virus knows no morals or sexual orientations.

In 2000, ACT UP/Golden Gate changed its name to Survive AIDS in an effort to avoid confusion with ACT UP/San Francisco (ACT UP/SF). “The two had previously split apart in 1990, but continued to share the same essential philosophy,” notes Wikipedia.

Brock Keeling

Behold The First ACT UP Flyer That Started A Revolution : SFist

  • TONY A


  • Virg E. Parks

    Nice but I’m obligated to clarify one thing. ACT UP Golden Gate split from ACT UP SF in 1990 over process and activist focus (and attendance that exploded after international conference) but did work together on some fabulous actions for many years. AU GG name change was because of ACT UP SF takeover by people that were increasingly violent in their actions (the real ACT UP was/is firmly NON-violent). The new Act Up SF also denied that HIV causes AIDS and aggressively discouraged people with HIV/AIDS from taking medications. They even threatened and physically attacked AIDS activists (myself included) and people living with HIV that disagreed with their positions. Michael Petrelis can confirm this. If I recall, he was also a recipient of an angry assault from the group.

    • Ramsey Peter

      ACT-UP/San Francisco was the first group to – rightfully – question the toxicity of the drugs given to ppl with AIDS. ACT-UP/SF gave voices to transgender and female PWA’s who were not represented by other existing groups, and demanded to know where the billions of federal AIDS funds were going. Because ACT-UP/SF would not take money from pharmaceutical companies or shill for politicians they were derided and attacked. And now even the US Armed Forces are at this very point in time investigating whether HIV tests are accurate, something ACT-UP/SF was also questioning ten years ago. Additionally, Michael Petrelis was working in tandem with ACT-UP/SF on funding questions, even got arrested with David Pasquarelli – so your rant is not even accurate, Virg – and when is this you allegedly were attacked? Until now I’ve never even heard of your name. Finally, ACT-UP/SF helped to re-build the medical marijuana movement in SF by opening a dispensary despite threats of battering rams, prison time and seizures from the DEA following the ham-handed closure of the dispensaries Flower Therapy and Dennis Peron’s Cannabis Buyers’ Club. What did ACT-UP Golden Gate do again? Hmmm.