AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP, is an activist group. It was founded in 1987 by playwright, author and activist Larry Kramer at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Centre in New York city. ACT UP takes direct action to draw attention to the AIDS crisis.
The group objected to the lack of access to desperately needed experimental AIDS drugs, and also wanted a national policy to fight the disease. Its protest demonstrations had major results. For example, in 1989 it forced pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome to lower the price of the only approved AIDS drug, the antiretroviral AZT. The group also protested against the Catholic Church’s public opposition to safer sex education and condom distribution.
ACT UP has been criticised for being too militant. However, its media-savvy direct action succeeded in putting the AIDS crisis on the political map, and made sure people with HIV/AIDS could be heard speaking out against the interests of the pharmaceutical industry.