I have heard some people refer to our current era as one in which HIV/AIDS and the discrimination surrounding it no longer pose major physical and social barriers. Unfortunately, nothing can be further from the truth even though much has improved since those terrible early years.
Critics have showered Dallas Buyers Club with praise, which is good news for Focus Features and Matthew McConaughey, whose outsized performance swings for the fences. But it's bad news for LGBT history and the history of AIDS activism.
The government regulatory bodies were insisting on such a slow testing process that they were effectively condemning to death anybody who was diagnosed with HIV. As far as the authorities were concerned, the message was, "Go die quietly." They clearly hadn't met Larry Kramer.
The major new opportunity that has arisen recently has been encapsulated in the term "treatment as prevention." Powerful new evidence has emerged that antiretrovirals not only can preserve the lives and the health of people with HIV but can significantly reduce the odds of new transmissions.
This death hit us hard. We have grappled to make sense of it. Why did he stop his meds? What role did his struggle with crystal meth play? Was this a failure of community? Are there lessons we can learn? These aren't just nosy questions by idle bystanders.
"Why We Fight" was a fiery 1988 speech given before a tumultuous crowd of angry ACT UP demonstrators at the New York State Capitol in Albany. Today, July 11, on what would have been Vito's 66th birthday, we present "Why We Fight" in its entirety.
In more than 25 years of reporting on AIDS, I have been honored to know many heroes of the AIDS epidemic. Not all of them have been as visible or vocal as Kramer and ACT UP, but the contributions they made, the prices they paid, the risks they took were just as real.