It’s impossible to tell just how many lives were saved by the work of Peter Staley and the Treatment Action Group. That’s because these lives, subsequently, were never immediately threatened.
Staley worked on Wall Street out of college–a job whose atmosphere compelled him to stay in the closet. He was diagnosed with AIDS-Related Complex in 1985 and on his way to work in 1987, he was given a flyer promoting ACT UP. Shortly after, he attended his first meeting. Eventually, he was trading bonds by day then heading fundraising for ACT UP by night. A year later he would be blocking traffic on the same street in protest.
Over the years, he would chain himself to a balcony at NYSE right before the opening bell, chain himself to the offices of various research and pharmaceutical companies, orchestrate the draping of a giant nylon condom over the home of homophobe Jesse Helms, and scale a balcony to mount an ACT UP flag atop the headquarters of the National Health Institute.
Staley and others in the Treatment & Development group of ACT UP were mostly self-taught. They literally began boot-legging textbooks and consulting sympathetic specialists until they knew so much that the very pharmaceutical companies they’d protested ended up consulting them for the best way to go about expediting distribution of these life saving drugs. They were instrumental in getting drugs into bodies, figuring out what worked and what didn’t, scouring for a way to save our community when no one in power seemed to care