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ACT UP/Chicago Is Back
by Amy Wooten
2006-02-08

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After dwindling 11 years ago, ACT UP/Chicago is on its way to being reincarnated.

Activists of all ages and backgrounds gathered Jan. 31 in an attempt to determine the focus and need for the reemergence of ACT UP/Chicago. A few former ACT UP/Chicago members were present, such as Lou Snider, to lend advice and take part. Others present were Rob Hadley, AIDS Foundation of Chicago's Jim Pickett and students from Northwestern University's HIV AIDS Literacy Organization ( HALO ) , to name a few.

'ACT UP is still alive in a lot of hearts,' said Hadley, who organized the meeting.

The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power is a national organization committed to direct action and civil disobedience to fight AIDS and challenge discrimination against LGBT individuals. The local chapter disbanded in 1995, in large part because of the passages of many of its members and the widespread belief that HIV/AIDS became a manageable disease.

Although the intention of the forum was to determine the need and focus of the new group, former ACT UP/Chicago and Pink Angels member Gary Naham shifted the focus toward action and the creation of committees.

It was apparent that those present felt a great need to bring back ACT UP/Chicago. Many expressed extreme displeasure with the current situation and a strong desire to do something about it. Examples of important agenda items were Medicare Part D and the Department of Human Services' treatment of people living with AIDS.

'Where AIDS is being fought, I want a piece of it,' Snider said.

The AIDS activist movement boomed after the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. ACT UP chapters dotted the nation. In early 1987, Dykes and Gay Men Against Racism and Repression protested Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson's support of repressive AIDS laws. In 1988, the group joined forces with Chicago For Our Rights to create C-FAR ( Chicago For AIDS Rights ) . That group evolved into ACT UP/Chicago.

ACT UP/Chicago was able to triple Chicago's AIDS budget and double the state's. The group also got Cook County Hospital to open up its AIDS ward to women after one day of protest. The organization protested violence against people with AIDS, and supported sex-positive messages.

On Oct. 17, 2000, ACT UP/Chicago was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.


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