A Letter to the Community
March 21, 2000
On February 29th the members of ACT UP Golden Gate voted to change its name to "Survive AIDS!". We are changing our name to put an end to the continuing confusion in the community between ACT UP Golden Gate and a group of people using the name "ACT UP San Francisco".
We feel that we owe the community that has supported us over the years an explanation for why we are changing our name. The decision to change our name was difficult and has been discussed internally for over a year. On one side were people who felt an affiliation with the name ACT UP, what it stands for, and its long list of accomplishments. Others felt we were spending too much time and energy explaining to media, physicians and the community which ACT UP chapter we were. In the end we all agreed that we wanted to spend our time and energy fighting to save and improve survival of people with AIDS/HIV.
Some background history is important to set the context for this decision. ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) began in 1987 in New York City and was the foundation of the AIDS direct action movement. ACT UP was the catalyst for changing the way the public, the medical establishment, and the government responded to the AIDS crisis. Never before has there been a patients rights and advocacy group that has had such a tangible impact on society through direct action and civil disobedience.
In San Francisco, ACT UP Golden Gate split from the original ACT UP San Francisco in 1990. ACT UP Golden Gate concentrated on issues involving treatment and treatment access while ACT UP San Francisco focused on broader social issues involving public policy and politics. Over the next several years the two ACT UP chapters worked separately and together on local and national AIDS issues.
Over time ACT UP San Francisco became controlled by individuals who had a different philosophy concerning AIDS treatment. This in itself was not a problem. The problem was that any one who disagreed with them on this one issue was shouted down, intimidated and driven out of the group. Long term members, seeing the original ACT UP mission and philosophy destroyed, were forced out of the group in disgust.
This new ACT UP San Francisco chapter harassed and stalked members of the AIDS community who disagreed with them about AIDS treatment strategy, first locally, then at national AIDS events. As time went on their tactics became more violent, culminating in physical assaults, which runs counter to the ACT UP philosophy of non-violent civil disobedience.
At present, ACT UP San Francisco has aligned itself with groups that believe HIV does not cause AIDS and that it is the use of anti-HIV medications which make people get sick and die. Those of us who are taking these drugs can accept that the drugs may not work for everyone, that we often experience negative side effects, and that the long term consequences of taking the drugs are unknown. But the reality is that many of us would have died along tim