(CRI) of New York: Clinical
Research and Prevention
The traditional separation between the practice of medicine and the conduct of research has, in the case of AIDS, had the result of impeding progress in both areas.
-- Joseph A. Sonnabend
Broadly speaking, there have been two major waves, or large coalition fronts, of community activism in response to the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) crisis. The first wave consisted of people with AIDS (PWA) self-empowerment groups, such as the PWA Coalition ( PWAC), and of service organizations, such as Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), in New York City. Before long-range political activism was possible, people with AIDS had to find a voice, and the gay community had to build organizations to provide services to PWAs. Gay people invented safer sex, dramatically lowering human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission, at least for a few years. PWAs rejected the term victim and came out as people with AIDS. GMHC and others provided the safer sex education that governments refused to disseminate. Gay lawyers fought in the courts to develop case law protecting people with AIDS from discrimination in jobs and housing-- rights still under attack to this day. These accomplishments together created a foundation on which political agitation and treatment activism could be conducted.
Since 1987, conditions were not ripe for the second wave or front of the AIDS movement until now. Then, ACT UP, the Community Research Initiative (CRI), and many other organizations were all founded in a heady atmosphere of rage at the government's narrow research priorities and hope in the rapid development of therapies ignored by government efforts. In a paradoxical way, azidothymidine (AZT or zidovudine, the generic name, or