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The AIDS Activist Project

Pride 2019

This is an image published in the book the AIDS activist project. I look at this image and wonder how many of these people are still alive today. No one knew what was coming, AIDS began to devastate the Gay Community.

This was from the Gay Pride Parade in 1980 or ’81, somewhere along Christopher Street, it was so many years, so many friends ago. I wasn’t out at the time, I was “covering” it hoping to get something published. It was eventually published in a paper, I believe it was called “New York City Gay News”.

This was the first Pride I witnessed. As the years went by, the Pride March became bigger and many more people attended and marched in it. The route was changed several times over the years to accommodate the influx of people. I remember over the years going out and watching the parade and hitting the parties afterwards. I didn’t march in Pride until after I joined ACT UP. One particular year, maybe it was 1992 or so, marching with ACT UP in the Parade. I don’t remember how many fellow ACT UP’ers marched,  in my mind we numbered in the hundreds. As we marched up the street, and I still get goosebumps when I think of it, the crowds along the route clapped, I saw people clapping with their hands held high above their heads some were chanting “ACT UP, FIGHT BACK, FIGHT AIDS” in support.  I knew I was a part, though a small part, of something amazing and powerful – AIDS activism.

I often think about a world where AIDS never happened. I don’t know what this would mean. Having the people we lost here instead of in our memories would be beautiful. AIDS came, it killed but we persevered. And it seems, that maybe, in the years to come, we will find a way to eradicate the virus totally.

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 give up in exchange for having our loved ones here with us. But we fought for a good reason, and AIDS Activism was successful 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 my friends, so many brave, beautiful people.  

I have tried to share my experience, my friends in the book “the AIDS activist project” The book is a tribute to the people and the movement.

I am proud of them.

-Bill Bytsura

 

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