69 Nat'l Law. Guild Rev. 45 (2012)
Legacy of Act Up's Policies and Actions from 1987-1994

handle is hein.journals/guild69 and id is 47 raw text is: Nathan H. Madson
THE LEGACY OF ACT UP'S POLICIES
AND ACTIONS FROM 1987-1994
I am someone with AIDS and I want to live by any means necessary. I am not
dying: I am being murdered. Just as surely as if my body was being tossed into
a gas chamber, I am being sold down the river by people within this community
who claim to be helping people with AIDS. Hang your heads in shame while
I point my finger at you.'
We condemn attempts to label us as victims, a term which implies defeat,
and we are only occasional patients, a term which implies passivity, helpless-
ness, and dependence upon the care of others. We are People with AIDS.2
On June 5, 1981, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
announced an odd cluster of Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) in five gay
men from Los Angeles, marking the start of the global AIDS epidemic.3 he
earliest reports of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) referred
to the disease as gay cancer or Gay-Related Immune Deficiency.' One
physician with the CDC even made an early claim that AIDS posed no threat
to heterosexuals.6 By September 15, 1982, when the CDC defined AIDS as
a disease that destroyed a person's immune system and left him' vulnerable
to PCP, Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), and/or other opportunistic infections (001),
there were 593 reported diagnoses of AIDS and 243 of those diagnosed had
already died.' The disease had spread to 27 states and the District of Columbia;
there were also 41 cases of AIDS reported in ten countries in addition to the
United States.9
Within those first 15 months of the epidemic, this previously gay only
disease had been reported in hemophiliacs, intravenous drug users (IDUs),
Haitians, and children bom of mothers with AIDS.'0 A fear that the hetero-
sexual majority was now at risk swept the nation and the world; that panic
was amplified by the fact that doctors still knew very little about the disease.
Doctors soon learned that AIDS was spread through sexual intercoursel2 and
tainted blood,13 but it was not until May 1983 and April 1984 that French and
American doctors, respectively, discovered Human Immunodeficiency Virus
(HIV), the virus that causes AIDS.14 Despite the knowledge that anyone could
become infected with AIDS, many Americans still considered AIDS to be a
gay disease, in effect creating a medicalized form of homophobia.1
Nathan Madson is a 2011 graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School and
a blog writer for Thomson Reuters. He would like to thank Michele Goodwin of
the University of Minnesota Law School for her invaluable help in the writing of
this article.

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