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HIV and Injection Drug Users: The Other AIDS Crisis

"A stream of recent documentaries related to the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) has introduced new audiences to the history of AIDS activism in the United States.3 “I’ve seen a lot of different things about ACT UP Los Angeles,” says performance artist, curator, and ACT UP and CNN activist, Marcus Kuiland-Nazario. “There’s always certain personalities that get all the coverage. Depending on who’s writing the history, those are the people who get remembered.” Marcus invokes names of activists ignored by the historical record. “I think of people like Curtis York, a performance artist who is no longer with us. He was a force of nature. The street theater and the street performances that we did were impromptu and so mad. There are these really important people who get left out of the telling.”4

"The story told about ACT UP often effaces the diverse geography and practices that made ACT UP such a dynamic political movement. The history of Clean Needles Now is one such local and specific narrative. In 1991, in the midst of ACT UP Los Angeles’s ongoing campaigns for AIDS healthcare and the fight against AIDS stigma, a small group of ACT UP activists began to discuss the need for a local needle exchange program. Initially the needle exchange committee attracted people from different committees, including novelist Steven Corbin and Marcus, both from ACT UP’s People of Color Caucus. Steven recruited photographer Ken Marchionno, at the time a recent East Coast transplant. The committee continued to grow in the autumn of 1991 as founding member, visual artist Renée Edgington, recruited more volunteers to launch the exchange…."

Excerpt from Below the Skin: AIDS Activism and the Art of Clean Needles Now by Dont Rhine

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