18 Women Who Made an Impact on AIDS

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As we spend another December 1st remembering those who have fought for their lives and for others’ during the AIDS crisis that continues to be a part of our world, it’s important to know just how many gay women were involved in the pivotal force that was ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and affiliated organizations. HIV and AIDS is too often seen as being about gay white men, and while they were certainly a huge part of the community that was both diagnosed and part of the demand for access to AZT and other drugs, affordable healthcare and other humane treatment, among other wins, they received countless amount of support from others, including lesbian and bisexual women.

Sarah Schulman and Jim Hubbard were members of ACT UP in New York City and have collected artifacts, interviews and pieces of history from 1987 up through the reverberation it has had through today. Their ACT UP Oral History Project culminated in a 2012 documentary called United in Anger, which featured the men and women who were involved in the group’s efforts to invoke change and educate the world at large about the horrible truths (and lies) about HIV and AIDS.

Today, on World AIDS Day, we celebrate 18 of these women who have gone on do even more incredible things for the LGBT community and mainstream society after a successful time spent dedicating their lives to such an important cause. For more information on each woman, click the link on their names for their ACT UP oral history interviews, which are all very much worth reading.

Ann Northropann-northrop

A journalist who has worked at Ms., ABC News and CBS, Ann was a part of the feminist movement in the ’70s and began covering the AIDS crisis in the newsroom. She became an AIDS educator for the Hetrick-Martin Institute in 1987, which led to her getting involved in ACT UP. With her journalistic background, she was able to give the group an idea of how the mainstream media worked, and led an action that gained nationwide attention after she helped ACT UP infiltrate a live broadcast of Evening News with Dan Rather. Ann is a co-host of Gay USAa weekly news program about LGBT issues that has been around since 1996.

Ann PhilbinHammer Museum 12th Annual Gala In The Garden With Generous Support From Bottega Veneta

Heavily involved in the art world, Ann had many gay male friends who were diagnosed with AIDS in the 1980s. She began fundraising with AmFar and attending ACT UP meetings, also eventually joining WAC (Women’s Action Coalition). Ann is now the director of the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and she is the inspiration for the character of Bette Porter in The L Word.

Sarah Schulmansarah-schulman

An award-winning novelist, playwright, artist, activist and professor, Sarah Schulman interviewed every single person whose oral history is available on the ACT UP website. Along with her co-director Jim Hubbard, she is the founder of the Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film Festival, MIX NYC. She continues to work to tell the stories of our community in many different forums and has a new novel coming out in 2015.

Anne-christine d’AdeskyAnne-christine d'Adesky

A journalist and activist, Anne-Christine has written about AIDS for places such as The New York Times and The Advocate. She was a producer on the 2003 documentary Pills, Profits, Protest: Chronicle of the Global AIDS Movement and co-founded a WE-ACTx, a global initiative to help “Rwandan women affected by HIV/AIDS who are survivors of genocidal rape, and orphans.” She was also an early member of the Lesbian Avengers.

Marlene McCartymarlene-act

Marlene was part of the artist and activist collective Gran Fury, which was ACT UP’s art sector. She created several successful mock ad campaigns, including bus ads with same-sex and interracial couples making out with the text, “Kissing doesn’t kill: Greed and indifference do.” Today Marlene’s work is part of major museum collections and her partner is Christine Vachon, the producer behind Killer Films.