What I've Learned from 30 Years of AIDS Activism

Older generations of LGBTQ people know Peter Staley as a hero. He explained what lessons can be drawn from his time fighting AIDS today.

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Apr 23 2017, 10:49pm

While the AIDS crisis wreaked havoc on the lives of gay men throughout the 1980s and 90s, Staley was on the front lines of the battle for political recognition and resources as an early member of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and founder of the Treatment Action Group (TAG), two of the most influential activist groups in the history of queer politics.

Staley joined ACT UP in the weeks after it formed in 1987. The organization would soon come to be as renowned for its theatrical protests as for its strategic lobbying of politicians and executives. From the White House to the FDA to the New York Stock Exchange , where Staley once worked as a bond trader, not only were ACT UP's actions hugely influential in reversing public stigma and government inaction towards AIDS, but they also produced seismic shifts in how the country perceived the "modern homosexual."

In light of today's thirtieth anniversary of ACT UP's birth, we spoke with Staley about how AIDS activism has changed today, what the resistance against Trump can draw from his experiences, and what's left to be done to eradicate HIV and AIDS from the planet. Interview as told to Khalid el Khatib.

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