Lessons from the AIDS movement

You don’t need huge numbers to make a difference

JEN: So Cheryl Marshall asks a question that you’ve answered in various ways but it’s been sort of plus-elevened by the audience so I want to ask it again and sort of dig a little bit deeper into this. “How do you translate what HIV activists were able to do to ME, given the fact that so many of us are bedbound and homebound and don’t have many healthy people activating for us?” and Vanessa asks a similar question which is, “Often the sick with severe ME cannot get out of the house. What can we do with this illness is so,” I’m sorry, I guess, “What can we do with this illness given that it is so debilitating that we simply cannot physically get out?”

PETER: It’s a massive roadblock for you, there’s no doubt in that. And it’s gonna take I think a lot of creativity to get around that type of thing. I will say that some of the, some of the actions that ACT UP did require very, very few people. We shut down trading on the New York Stock Exchange with five people. We put a condom on Jesse Helms’s house with seven people.  So you don’t, if you can find either those living with ME or ME activists who are friends of those living with ME and design a, and you only end up finding five to ten people that are willing to risk arrest you can design an action around that depending on the creativity and the target that would not require much physical exertion and I think that’s the type of mind, you know, that’s the type of creativity in the playbook that you guys are gonna have to figure out. How do we do things if we only can get a few people to get to this location.

NEXT: Why it can be harder fighting for a chronic disease

For more, browse other short, 2-3 minute videos or watch the full, 70 minute interview with AIDS activist Peter Staley. You can also out the HMC case study of AIDS advocacy, as well as the documentary film How to Survive a Plague. 

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