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In 1987, somebody shoved a flyer into the hand of Peter Staley: massive AIDS demonstration, it announced. After four years on Wall Street as a closeted gay man, Staley was familiar with the homophobia common on trading floors. He also knew that he was not beyond the reach of HIV, having recently been diagnosed with AIDS-Related Complex.
A week after the protest, Staley found his way to a packed meeting of the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power—ACT UP—in the West Village. It would prove to be the best decision he ever made. ACT UP would change the course of AIDS, pressuring the National Institutes of Health, the FDA, and three administrations to finally respond with research that ultimately saved millions of lives.
Staley, a shrewd strategist with nerves of steel, organized some of the group’s most spectacular actions, from shutting down trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to putting a giant condom over the house of Senator Jesse Helms. Never Silent is the inside story of what brought Staley to ACT UP and the explosive and sometimes painful years to follow—years filled with triumph, humiliation, joy, loss, and persistence.
Peter Staley has been a long-term AIDS and gay rights activist, first as a member of ACT UP New York, then as the founding director of TAG, the Treatment Action Group. He was a 2016 Fellow at Harvard's Institute of Politics and is a leading subject in the Oscar-nominated documentary How to Survive a Plague. More recently, Staley co-founded the PrEP4All Collaboration and the COVID-19 Working Group—New York, and is the lead named plaintiff in Staley v Gilead, a major federal antitrust case against big pharma set for trial next year.
Garance Franke-Ruta is an NYC-based writer and editor who most recently served as executive editor of Medium's GEN magazine. She spent two in decades in Washington, D.C., where she served as editor of Yahoo News and editor in chief of Yahoo Politics, Voices columnist and politics editor of The Atlantic, national web politics editor for the Washington Post, senior editor at the American Prospect and senior writer at the Washington City Paper, D.C.'s alternative weekly newspaper. She is currently working on a memoir about coming of age in New York City during the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and early 1990s.