“The Life and Death of ACT UP/LA: Anti-AIDS Activism in Los Angeles from the 1980s to the 2000s” by Benita Roth— A Unique History

Roth, Benita. “The Life and Death of ACT UP/LA: Anti-AIDS Activism in Los Angeles from the 1980s to the 2000s”, Cambridge University Press, 2017.

A Unique History

Amos Lassen

It took years for the public to really understand thatthe AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, Los Angeles, (ACT UP/LA) served a crucial role in the fight against the disease that so devastated the gay community. ACT UP/LA battled government, medical, and the institutional neglect of the AIDS epidemic. By using multi-targeted protests in Los Angeles and nationally, fighting he disease became a priority in this country. I would dare to say that without ACT UP people might still be dying. The book shows how direct action anti-AIDS activism was for everyone across the United States. Through this direct action, we see how the politics of place affect organizing, and how the particular features of the Los Angeles cityscape shaped possibilities for activists.

The book is narrated through a feminist lens and sees social inequalities as mutually reinforcing and interdependent in the interaction of activists and the outcomes of their actions. It was the activists who were involved in the struggle against AIDS and homophobia, ultimately gaining a voice in healthcare that ushered in the age of “progressive, multi-issue, anti-corporate, confrontational organizing of the late twentieth century”.

The members of ACT UP/LA battled government and institutional neglect of the AIDS crisis during the 1980s and 1990s. We see how participants fought for adequate responses to the epidemic, and how they faced internal challenges to their organization’s solidarity due to social inequalities.

There has been a resurgence of literature about the AIDS epidemic and we simply cannot allow ourselves to forget what life was like back then. In a sense, it made our community what it is today.

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