Between then and 1993, Carrasco watched his CD4 count plummet to 20, and yet he outlived some of his closest ACT UP friends. By that time, the once-mighty New York chapter of ACT UP, which had powered so many effective demonstrations, had quieted down. Still healthy, Carrasco took a gamble on his future and went back to school for his social work degree. He earned it in 1996, the very year that new drugs called protease inhibitors emerged and began saving lives.
Carrasco took the meds—and got sicker than ever from the side effects. “Kidney problems, fatigue, insomnia, nausea,” he recalls. “I was a basket case.” So much so that he had to take a sick leave from his new job. He didn’t return to work until a med change in 2002 made it possible.