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Larry Kramer on the 20th Anniversary of ACT UP
This month, ACT UP - the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power - is marking its 20th anniversary. We spend the hour with ACT UP co-founder, Larry Kramer. A legendary - and controversial - figure in the gay rights movement, Kramer wrote some of the first articles warning about the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s. He has also written many plays including "The Normal Heart" and "The Destiny of Me." Kramer was diagnosed with HIV in the mid-1980s. He nearly died in 2001 from Hepatitis B in the liver. He is now over 70 years old. He joins us today in our firehouse studio for the hour. [includes rush transcript - partial] Twenty years ago this week, 250 AIDS activists traveled to Wall Street to protest the high price of antiviral drugs and the Reagan's administrations failure to address the AIDS crisis. The date was March 24, 1987.
Activists lay down in the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway, blocking traffic. Some held cardboard tombstones. Seventeen of them were arrested.
It was the first of many actions led by a newly formed group called AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power - or ACT UP. The group's motto was Silence Equals Death. ACT UP would go on to invade the offices of drug companies and scientific labs, storm Saint Patrick's cathedral in New York, cover the home of Jesse Helms in a giant condom and conduct die-ins at the FDA.
In October 1992, members of ACT UP headed to Washington where the AIDS quilt was on display. They decided to throw the ashes of loved ones who had died of AIDS onto the grass of the White House. The event was captured in the documentary The Ashes Action.
* The Ashes Action - excerpt of documentary.
This month ACT UP is marking its 20th anniversary. Today hundreds of members of ACT Up are heading back to Wall Street. This time to demand a single-payer health care system and drug price controls.
Among the protesters will be the activist and writer Larry Kramer. In 1983 he helped found the Gay Men's Health Crisis, the country's first AIDS organization. Four years later he helped form ACT UP.
He is a legendary - and controversial - figure in the gay rights movement. In the early 1980s Larry Kramer wrote some of the first articles warning about the AIDS epidemic. One article was titled "1,112 and Counting." At the time there were just over one thousand known cases of AIDS. He wrote, "Unless we fight for our lives we shall die... every gay man who is unable to come forward now and fight to save his own life is truly helping to kill the rest of us." He has also written many plays including "The Normal Heart" and "The Destiny of Me."
Larry was diagnosed with HIV in the mid-1980s. He nearly died in 2001 from Hepatitis B in the liver. He is now over 70 years old. Larry Kramer joins us today in our firehouse studio for the hour.
* Larry Kramer, longtime AIDS activist, author and playwright. He helped found both the Gay Men's Health Crisis and ACT UP. He has written many plays and books. His most recent book is titled "The Tragedy of Today's Gays."