The AIDS Activist Project

Contact sheet detail from the AIDS activist project

This is one of the images included in a spread from the book the AIDS activist project. This is before the shit hit the fan and AIDS really began wreaking havoc on the gay population. 

I believe this ran in the newspaper, New York Native, I’ll have to get back to Fales Library and Collections to confirm that. I think we included a copy for the projects archives. It was also my first ever published photo. It was before I was out, but I guess this was a step in the direction of coming out. I can remember the editor saying, and I’m sure a lot of photographer and other artist have heard this, “We can’t pay for use of the image, but we will give you photo-credit”. 

I remember being absolutely thrilled about the prospect of my image and name being published in a newspaper, in NEW YORK CITY!!! I was so excited. But a few years later, I realized that getting a photo credit in exchange for use of a photo didn’t pay the rent.

I often think about a world where AIDS never happened. I don’t know what this mean, what it would really change in my life. But having the people we lost here instead of in our memories would be beautiful. 

AIDS came, it killed but we persevered. And maybe, in the years to come, we will find a way to eradicate the virus totally.

But, and i’ve had this talk with many fellow activists, being a part of ACT UP & AIDS activism, part of the fight, for treatments, education, and rights for People With AIDS was an amazing experience. Though it’s an experience I would gratefully give up in exchange for having our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and lovers back here with us.

But we fought for a good reason, and we succeeded in many ways. Though it doesn’t bring back the ones we lost, it was an amazing experience and I am grateful for the opportunity to fight alongside so many brave, beautiful people.

-Bill Bytsura

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