1988 October 11

Lesbian and Gay Rights Group ACT UP Shuts Down FDA for a Day


A massive sit-in by the lesbian and gay rights group ACT UP shut down the offices of the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for a day in protest of federal inaction on developing treatments for HIV AIDS. The protest involved 1,000 people and resulted in 180 arrests. The slogan of the protest was Silence = Death. President Ronald Reagan had failed to respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis, in part because of his personal distaste for homosexuality but also because of the influence of anti-homosexual Religious Right activists who held key positions in his administration.

ACT UP was founded on March 10, 1987 by gay rights activists who felt that other organizations were not militant enough in their demand for more action, particularly the federal government, on the HIV/AIDs crisis. ACT UP held its first demonstration two weeks later on March 24, 1987.

The leading figure in the founding of ACT UP was the playwright Larry Kramer. See April 21, 1985 for his semi-autobiographical play on the AIDS crisis, The Normal Heart.

Don’t miss: David France, How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of  How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS (1916)

Watch a video on “Silence = Death” protests: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tCN9YdMRiA

Read the pioneering book on the AIDS crisis: Randy Shilts, And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (1988)

Learn more: Deborah Gould, Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP’s Fight Against AIDS (2009)

Learn more at a  timeline on HIV/AIDS: http://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/aids-timeline/

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