HIV & Aids Activism: Collections

During the 1980s, issues of LGBTQ discrimination were brought into the spotlight with the AIDS crisis. The collections listed below document responses ranging from various LGBTQ groups to the United States government’s inaction in face of the crisis as well as internal government records on the crisis and government response. The content included in these collections is highly sought after by researchers and offers critical documentation of the history of AIDS activism.
  • ACT UP: The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power

    The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) was an activist group organized in 1987 to respond to the US government’s handling of the AIDS crisis with aggressive, nonviolent, direct action.

    The materials in this collection span the period from 1980 to 2000, tracing the development of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, the formation of ACT UP in 1987, and its grassroots activism through the 1990s, which showcases the group’s early history, structure, and activism.

    This collection contains materials related to ACT UP’s direct-action initiatives as AIDS activists. The group formed several special activist committees to guide and inform its program activities. These activist committees performed extensive AIDS and HIV medical and pharmaceutical research. Newspaper articles and journal reports document developments in medical and experimental vaccines and drugs over the years, including alternative and holistic health approaches.

    This collection provides critical documentation of the history of AIDS activism.

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  • In Response to the AIDS Crisis: Records of the National Commission on Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, 1983-1994

    This collection holds the records of the National Commission on AIDS, an independent body created by federal law in 1989 to develop a consensus on policies concerning the disease. The Commission’s fifteen members included doctors, politicians, health officials, religious leaders, AIDS activists, and HIV activists.

    Medically, it investigated health and vaccines, current research and clinical trials, and the risk of transmission. Politically, the Commission looked at federal, state, and local responsibilities. And socially, it examined the social and human impact of the infection, such as international aspects of the AIDS virus, HIV and civil rights, and the response religious communities had toward gay people, HIV, and AIDS. The Commission also looked at the infection’s effect on gay men and gay communities.

    The collection is a great resource to supplement the study of the history of AIDS. It includes the briefing books prepared to inform the Commission about various aspects of the virus; reports published by external institutions and government agencies; and reports from the Commission’s predecessor, the Presidential Commission on the HIV Epidemic (1987–1988). The work also includes reports prepared by the Commission itself, including its final report, “AIDS: An Expanding Tragedy,” which recommended a unified plan for combatting AIDS, treatment centers for drug abuse and addiction, and expanded medical coverage for prescription drugs and vaccines.

    The materials in this collection are essential for researchers of AIDS policy, treatment, history, and epidemiology.

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  • Studies in Global Crisis: The International AIDS & HIV Crisis, Part 1: 1985-1999

    This collection documents the international response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic from 1985 through 1999. The research, studies, reports, and analyses found here represent an exhaustive review of the facts; causes; and political, social, and economic implications of a disease that impacts every region of the world indiscriminately.

    The International AIDS & HIV Crisis collection assembles research studies that analyze the end goals and strategies of fighting this global infection at the end of the twentieth century. These studies, reports, and analyses were conducted by governmental agencies, private organizations under contract with the US government, and international organizations—including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the United States Agency for International Development, and Johns Hopkins University. These agencies and organizations represent the most rigorous and authoritative research on HIV and AIDS during the 1985–1999 period.

    Materials generally fall into the following categories: medical, economic, social issues, and politics. Medical documents include reports on the creation of new methods of testing for HIV, articles on various research into the nature of the virus, and papers exploring the effects of HIV and AIDS on the body. Economic documents explore the effect of the virus on the economy of countries internationally, including analyses performed by the World Bank. Political documents reveal the actions taken by governments worldwide in response to the AIDS epidemic. Although most regions of the world are represented in these documents, particular focus is placed on Africa and the United States.

    The materials in this collection provide information on many aspects of the global HIV and AIDS crisis at the end of the twentieth century. Documents explaining the way HIV and AIDS spread, the efforts to control the epidemic, and its treatment methodology over more than two decades, are of interest to sociological and biological researchers. Materials on government impacts and world markets will be useful to political historians and economists. Overall, the collection offers critical documents to those studying the history of HIV and AIDS.

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  • The Bush Administration and the AIDS Crisis

    When President George H.W. Bush took office in 1989, AIDS had been an epidemic for almost a decade. Awareness of the infection had spread, but there was no coherent strategy for management, treatment, prevention, or development of a vaccine for the disease. Internal memoranda discuss the administration’s support for AIDS research funding and correspondence from biotechnology firms address research policy. There are also reports and surveys collected on AIDS and HIV activism, prevention, testing, and notes from international AIDS conferences and centers.

    Two subjects of specific historical interest are in this collection. The first concerns the disease and infected people immigrating. In 1987, Congress passed legislation prohibiting individuals infected with HIV and AIDS from entering the United States without a special waiver. Select reports and internal memoranda in this collection weigh whether it would be wise to allow people infected with HIV to travel, work, or immigrate to the United States.

    The second area of interest is the internal and external correspondence between the Reagan-era Presidential Commission on the HIV Epidemic and its Bush-era successor, the National Commission on AIDS. This collection contains Vice President Bush’s press release supporting the original Presidential Commission, correspondence related to appointments with the new National Commission, and briefing reports on their progress. Also included is correspondence that shows the impact of celebrity commission members Earvin “Magic” Johnson, an HIV positive basketball star, and activist Mary Fisher, an HIV positive Republican who spoke at the 1992 Republican National Convention.

    Finally, the collection contains nonpolitical information about the disease between the years 1989 and 1993. Letters from constituents describe their own struggles with the disease, along with the Bush administration’s responses. There are also letters seeking the participation of administration officials at various AIDS-related events.

    This collection is a significant resource for researchers interested in the United States government’s response to the AIDS crisis and the political and social context of AIDS in the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

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