A man shouts from the crowd at an AIDs protest.

Members of the gay activist group ACT-UP march through Times Square in New York on Monday, April 6, 1992. The activists planned civil disobedience and disruption of traffic outside the presidential candidates headquarters, in an effort to make AIDS a campaign issue.

Credit: Andrew Savulich, AP

Tuesday on Political Rewind: Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, a massive mobilization began across the world. Public health officials released safety guidelines and news organizations ran nonstop coverage. 

But when HIV/AIDS was first identified almost 40 years ago, the response was tragically different.

a side by side illustration of author and book cover.

Author Sarah Schulman and the cover of her new book, 'Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993'

President Ronald Reagan refused to acknowledge the disease, public health agencies looked the other way and those infected with the stigmatized disease were shunned by their families and communities.

From that atmosphere of fear and rejection, ACT UP was born. The organization was a loose confederation of activists determined to force the country to look the virus in the eye.

We speak with Sarah Schulman, author of a new book on the remarkable success of ACT UP in changing the trajectory of a deadly disease.


Sarah Schulman — Author, Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993

Tamar Hallerman — Senior Reporter, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution