On May 14, 2019, HIV/AIDS activism lost one of its true giants. Andy Velez has been an unwavering hero to people affected by the virus around the world, and a mentor to advocates throughout his over three decades of dedicated service. No words can capture the impact of the loss of this great man.
A native New Yorker born in the Bronx and an ever-present fixture in queer theatre and queer activism, Andy knew how to bring the creativity, humor, attitude, and drama to activism and civil disobedience quite like no one else. He never shied away from a fight when marginalized people and the communities he loved were under attack. With a mischievous smile, he always knew how to take an action one or two or ten steps further, pushing everyone to think outside of the box and create an unforgettable spectacle.
A founding member of ACT UP/New York, Andy remained active in the group through the rest of his life, contributing his formidable voice to countless battles for people living with or at risk for HIV. He was known for his involvement in high-profile street demonstrations and his leadership in the group’s Latino Caucus. Through his recent work and mentorship on issues ranging from PrEP access to organ transplants for HIV-positive individuals, a whole new generation of activists has learned how to carry the fight onward. The movement will live on through the advocates Andy helped train and the powerful advocacy foundation that he helped construct. The battle to end HIV as an epidemic will be won with many thanks to a hard-working proud queer Latino, who gave up every Monday evening to come to the LGBT Center in Manhattan and freely share his wisdom and expertise in every weekly ACT UP meeting.
We at TAG express deep gratitude for the opportunity to have worked alongside Andy these many years, and though we will continue to advance the activism, the solidarity, and the movement that Andy helped build, we know that the work will never be the same without him. We will not forget the laughter, the brilliance, and the ferocity of our dear Andy Velez.