Friday, March 18, 2011

Herb Spiers, ACT UP Co-Founder
& My Friend, Has Died

(Spiers on Fire Island in 1996. Credit: Gerald Hannon, Xtra!)

The first time I saw Herb Spiers, his relaxed masculine nature and handsome face attracted my eye, and when he spoke about the AIDS issues of the day back in 1987, he impressed me with his knowledge and smartness.

We got to know each well when we were both on the ACT UP Treatment + Data Committee, and when I volunteered at the AIDS Treatment Registry and he was on its board, and we collaborated with Iris Long on drug approval and clinical trial matters. I looked upon Herb as a surrogate uncle, especially when he would constructively admonish me for some of my radical views and behavior.

Today I heard the sad news that he died recently and I want to honor Herb, his life and strong, compassionate advocacy by marking his passing. From the Xtra! publication in Toronto:

Herb Spiers died in New York City on March 2, 2011, after several years of struggle with HIV and cancer.

Though he had lived in New York for several decades, he was a significant force in the early gay movement in Toronto, co-authoring "We Demand," a text that became the strategic blueprint for Canadian activists.

He was also a member of The Body Politic Collective, wrote for the publication and was a vocal member of early gay rights groups like Toronto Gay Action.

In New York, he became a founding member of ACT UP and helped write The Montreal Manifesto, "The Declaration of Universal Rights and Needs of People Living with HIV Disease,” released publicly in June 1989 at the 5th International AIDS Conference in Montreal. ...

Herb sat down with the ACT UP Oral History Project in 2008, and spoke about his life, political beliefs and engagement with AIDS activism and gay liberation. Click here to read his interview. He played several important roles in the betterment of the lives gays and people with AIDS.

May he rest in peace.

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