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Peter Staley, ACT UP: His life in activism


Peter Staley is the iconic poster boy of ACT UP, and was the voice behind the organization in the 1980s and 1990s.

He moved to New York City, a mecca for gay freedom and life, in 1983. But in 1985 he was diagnosed with the AIDS virus. Staley’s boyish good looks and charm, along with his fierce determination to find a cure for or vaccine against the AIDS virus led him to leave his Wall Street bond trader job, filled with homophobic straight male colleagues, in order to devote himself to activism. He joined ACT UP, in 1987.

He spent years attending ACT UP Monday night meetings, planning and strategizing to pressure pharmaceutical companies and the U.S. president to recognize AIDS, take action and insistently push U.S. agencies for fast-track approvals of new drugs against the virus. The unorthodox, but highly effective, method they used to execute public actions and demonstrate, which attracted unprecedented media attention, was adopted by many organizations in the modern era.

After much turmoil and infighting…

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