ACTUP Capsule History 1990


January 3, 1990: ACT UP stages the first in a three-part series of actions in Albany to protest New York State's severe lack of attention to the AIDS epidemic. An ACT UP member interrupts Gov. Mario Cuomo's State of the State address and engages Cuomo in a brief debate while demonstrators protest outside the Capitol.

January 8-9, 1990: ACT UP/NY joins ACT UP/Atlanta in two days of demonstrations in Georgia. Sixty-three people are arrested lying down in the street at the State Capitol demanding the immediate repeal of Georgia's sodomy laws. The next day hundreds besiege the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) headquarters with signs, banners and costumes protesting the CDC's narrow definition of AIDS (which excludes gynecological illnesses and illnesses more common to people of color and children). Forty-nine are arrested. In the week following the demos, ACT UP/Atlanta's membership triples.

January 25, 1990: ACT UP stages a phone zap against Galaxy Carpet Mills whose health insurance policy does not cover HIV-related treatment unless an employee can prove "involuntary" HIV infection. ACT UP floods Galaxy switchboards in protest. One month later, the company reverses this policy, and insures all employees.

January, 1990: ACT UP spearheads an investigation into newly-elected New York City Mayor David Dinkins' selection of Dr. Woodrow Myers for Commissioner of Health. It finds out that as Indiana State Health Commissioner, Myers endorsed and attempted to implement mandatory HIV testing, partner tracing and quarantine. After ACT UP protests at City Hall, Dinkins states that these policies will not be tolerated in New York City.

February 13, 1990: ACT UP returns to Albany in the second of our three-part New York State Capitol action. Thirteen ACT UP members seize the Division of Budget offices, chaining themselves to desks (all are arrested). Hundreds of others protest in the Capitol Concourse and the Legislative Office Building, disseminating information on the State's negligent response to all aspects of the AIDS crisis, and demanding increased AIDS funding in the new fiscal year State budget.

February 23, 1990: The Housing Committee protests the proposal to allow the Archdioses of New York for health related facilities (nursing homes) for PWAs. The Archdioses refused to provide safe sex and clean works information, condoms, contraceptives, abortion counseling and gynecological care, among other things, citing institutional ethics. The N.Y. State Public Health Council was more than willing to re-write the State Health departments/AIDS Institute Standards of care to accommodate them.

March 6, 1990: ACT UP's Needle Exchange Committee is formed, dedicated to decriminalizing needle possession, safer injection education and drug treatment on demand A group of ACT UP members exchange clean needles for used ones along with safe drug injection instructions, condoms and safer sex/AIDS prevention information with intravenous drug users (IVDUs) on a Lower East Side street corner. Six of the ACT UP exchangers are arrested.

March 28, 1990: For the third Albany action, more than 2,500 people descend on the New York State Capitol to inform Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature that State AIDS funding is murderously inadequate. A banner dropped over the front of the Capitol Building reads, "The Death of People With AIDS is a Capitol Crime." The Governor's mansion is literally wrapped in red tape.

April 20-23, 1990: ACT UP activists from all over the country converge on Chicago to target the national headquarters of the American Medical Association (AMA) and health insurance companies also headquartered there. Women activists take over the intersection in front of Cook County Hospital with mattresses, declaring it the "Cook County Women's AIDS Unit" since no women with AIDS are allowed treatment in the hospital. The Cook County Hospital AIDS Unit admits its first women two days later. A People of Color Conference also convenes to discuss and coordinate AIDS activism in diverse communities.

May 21, 1990: ACT UP/NY organizes a national action to "Storm the NIH (National Institutes of Health)." One thousand protesters demand more AIDS treatments, especially for the opportunistic infections that kill PWAs, an end to the severe underrepresentation of women and people of color in clinical trials, and the formation of a Womens Health Committee in the AIDS Clinical Trial System at the NIH.

June 13, 1990: The Housing Committee organizes a zap of the Housing Authority to protest discrimination against PWAs, survivors of PWAs who are not legal tenants, lesbians and gays.

June 16-23, 1990: Members of ACT UP/NY join AIDS activists from around the world at the Sixth International Conference on AIDS in San Francisco (see also: Shouting-down Louis Sullivan). Demonstrations throughout the conference highlight issues of importance to the AIDS community. ACT UP/NY's Treatment and Data Committee issues its 1990 Treatment Agenda which outlines the direction the AIDS research community should be taking in the coming year which becomes one of the most talked about documents at the conference. The PISD (People with Immune System Disorders) caucus introduces the San Francisco Plan , which outlines the civil and medical rights of people with immune system disorders.

July, 1990: Women, AIDS & Activism, developed originally by ACT UP's Women's Caucus in 1989, is published. It is the first book to chart the natural history of AIDS in women. The Women & AIDS Book Group has also made Women, AIDS & Activism a landmark manifesto for safer sex for women and health activism.

July, 1990: As a result of continuing pressure, NIAID officials meet with women from ACT UP/NY and ACT UP/DC, who make ten demands including a conference on women with HIV and a women's committee for the ACTG system. NIAID agrees to hold the conference. We also demand a natural history study of women and HIV which finally begins in 1993.

July-August, 1990: In a month-long series of actions, coinciding with a number of AIDS conferences, ACT UP/NY and the newly-formed ACT UP de Puerto Rico work to increase AIDS awareness in Puerto Rico. Despite the highest rate of new AIDS cases in the Western hemisphere, Puerto Rico has almost no treatment for PWAs and safer sex education is blocked by the Catholic church. Two hundred people of all ages and orientations march from the Capital Building in San Juan to the Governor's mansion demanding that condoms, safer sex-guidelines and clean needles for IVDUs be distributed island-wide. ACT UPs/NY and Puerto Rico demand immediate availability of treatments for PWAs and increased Medicaid coverage.

October 2, 1990: ACT UP/NY joins ACT UP/DC to protest the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) disability regulations which discriminated against women with HIV by using CDC defined AIDS as a criteria for disability. This was the first public 'speak out' by women with HIV, and the beginning of a 3-year campaign.

October 7, 1990: Camp Laguardia Outreach Action. With the OK of the Director, Housing committee experiments with providing AIDS Education, condom and bleach kits to homeless men at an upstate shelter.

November, 1990: The ACT UP/NY Treatment and Data Committee releases the "Countdown 18 Months Plan," a set of scientific procedures and demands designed to implement treatment and research for controlling the five currently most devastating opportunistic infections (Cytomegalovirus, histoplasmosis, pneumocystis carnii, toxoplasmosis and mycobacterium avium complex).

November, 1990: Gov. Cuomo cuts New York State AIDS funding by 40% just four days before his re-election. In response, 100 AIDS activists pack his "Victory" party and interrupt his election acceptance speech with cries of "Shame!" and "Cuomo Balances the Budget with People's Lives!"

December, 1990: First National Women and HIV Conference, Washington, D.C. The ACT UP National Womens Committee distributes The Womens Research and Treatment Agenda which is later translated into three languages and handed out at two of the International Conferences on AIDS .

December 3, 1990: ACT UP/NY and AIDS activists from all over the country return to the CDC in Atlanta and again demand the immediate expansion and revision of its narrow definition of AIDS as well as a future policy of updating the list every six months.

December 8, 1990: ACT UP and WHAM! return to St. Patrick's Cathedral for a "Stop the Church" anniversary. Cardinal O'Connor creates excellent publicity for the action by getting a restraining order against ACT UP. What was planned as a small demonstration attracts over 1000 protesters. Signs and chants include "Expel O'Connor from the Public Schools" and "'Just say no' is not enough: Teach safer sex!"


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