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Ending An Epidemic: Act Up, Fight Back! (2001)

The 20th anniversary of the first documented AIDS case in the United States seemed like the ideal time to look at the history and successes of ACT UP Philadelphia, the largest ACT UP group in the country with over 100 active members. ACT UP Philadelphia is a unique and special group that stands almost alone in its use of empowerment-based grassroots organizing, aggressive non-violent direct action tactics, and its analysis of the AIDS epidemic as a political crisis that can be solved. Meet some of the members of ACT UP Philadelphia and see them in action.


ACT UP is committed to self-education and empowering people with HIV to take charge of their own lives and health. Through dedicated and relentless hard work, ACT UP Philadelphia has won real victories for people with HIV. Over the years they have fought for better access to medications and alternative therapies, free healthcare, decent healthcare for incarcerated people, inclusion of women in medical testing, and most recently improving access to AIDS medications to people in such countries as South Africa.

The AIDS epidemic first gained attention in the United States in 1981 during the Reagan years. He along with the European powers and corporate interests, assumed that the situation could be controlled with the least possible effort. This was a fatal tactical error for which they should bear responsibility. The repercussions of their slow action have made the crisis what it is today with women and minorities affected in increasing numbers. 21.8 million people have already died from AIDS. The U.S. has the highest reported rate of AIDS in the industrialized world. In the U.S. there is one AIDS-related death every 15 minutes, and someone is infected with HIV every 13 minutes.

Viewers will learn more about ACT UP Philadelphia through interviews with activists and footage showing what ACT UP does so well, direct action. Comprised solely of volunteers, ACT UP distributes the latest medical information, meets with government officials and applies pressure through protest. They get the goods and win!

Ending An Epidemic: Act Up, Fight Back! (2001)

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