2022 marked TAG’s 30th anniversary. The organization was formed January 1992 by a group of HIV activists from the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP)/New York and its Treatment and Data Committee.
TAG’s cofounders — Barbara Hughes, Garance Franke-Ruta, Gregg Gonsalves, Peter Staley and Mark Harrington among them — believed it was essential to form a community organization with a full-time focus on speeding up AIDS research, advocating for increased funding, and ensuring that people with HIV and at risk for it had access to and information about treatments that could save their lives.
In those dark days at the height of the AIDS crisis, few could have imagined just how much TAG would help to revolutionize the field. In its early years, TAG pushed to overhaul clinical trials to produce quicker and more reliable answers about whether new drugs and combinations actually worked. By 1996, that activism led to the breakthrough discovery that combination HIV treatment could reduce viral load to undetectable levels, protecting health and prolonging life.
TAG co-founders Mark Harrington, Gregg Gonsalves, and Spencer Cox launch TAG’s “AIDS Research at the NIH: A Critical Review” at the VIII International Conference on AIDS, Amsterdam, July 22, 1992.
Over the following decade, TAG fought alongside allies around the world to achieve universal access to affordable life-saving treatments everywhere they were needed, including in developing countries that are home to over 95% of people living with HIV.
Today, thanks in part to TAG’s efforts, over 40 HIV drugs and combination therapies have been approved by the FDA. Twenty five million people with HIV around the world are now receiving combination treatment – but thirty years after TAG’s founding, we still don’t have a cure or a vaccine for HIV.
Throughout 2022, we honored three decades of action, advocacy, and achievements that transformed the lives and prognoses of people living with HIV, viral hepatitis (HCV) and tuberculosis (TB). We showed you how our past has formed our Mission, Vision, and Values as we move forward.
We couldn’t have made it to this point without your dedication and support. Time and again you’ve advanced our work and our mission through solidarity and generosity. As we kick-off our 2023, 31st year, we hope that you’ll consider supporting TAG as we continue our vital work.
Longtime TAG board member Kevin Goetz, and Ellen Wolf, a pillar of the Palm Springs, CA community, hosted an event to introduce the work of TAG to Palm Springs. We also gave a “Courage in Action” award to Karl Schmid, for his work fighting stigma of PLWHIV and promoting the U=U message. Karl opens this video by saying “Well we’re here celebrating 30 years of Treatment Acton Group, TAG. People like Mark [Harrington] here who started this 30 years ago are the reason that I’m standing here alive today.”
In 2014, TAG organized the first-ever meeting between hepatitis C treatment activists from low- and middle-income countries and pharmaceutical company representatives; worked with allies to produce a handbook of activist strategies to increase treatment access; and managed two global activist listservs. Staying true to its activist roots, TAG co-organized a demonstration at the International AIDS Conference to protest the high price of Gilead’s HCV treatment, and continued to get out the message in blogs and interviews.
In 2019 TAG’s Lindsay McKenna was one of the activists demonstrating at J&J’s headquarters during a shareholders meeting. They were taking a stand against the public paying twice for TB drug #bedaquiline: first to develop it, and then to access meds. You can read more about it in our report, “Reality Check: The Price of Bedaquiline,” or listen to our TB CAB 10-Year Anniversary podcast.
Mark Harrington participated in a “die in” during a pre-TAG 1990 ACT UP demonstration at NIH headquarters in Bethesda. They were demanding activist access to and PWA representation on all research committees and meetings of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) & other NIH-funded AIDS clinical trials networks; expanded research on AIDS-related opportunistic infections and cancers and on innovative anti-HIV targets; expansion of clinical trials representation to include women of child-bearing age, adolescents, children, present and former drug users, people with hemophilia or liver disease, and all populations affected by HIV.
In October, 2008, Prior to the 39th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Paris, TAG, STOP TB Partnership, and AIDES, held a TB/HIV Satellite Meeting, which brought together national TB and AIDS control program personnel, researchers, policy makers, funding agencies, and TB/HIV advocates. This photo shows Nobel Laureate Françoise Barré-Sinoussi (2nd left); with TAG’s first TB/HIV project director, Javid Syed; ED Mark Harrington; and Claire Wingfield, then coordinator of TAG’s TB/HIV Project.
TAG board member Robert Monteleone hosted a reception for United for the Cure, a group of TAG donors led by Jim Aquino and Bob Bronzo, who banded together to commit $5300 a year for four years for TAG’s Accelerating Research to Cure AIDS Campaign. From left to right: Greig Sargeant, David Levine, Karen Bronzo, Bob Bronzo, Tim Ford, Michael Beltran, John Deyling. In front: Jim Aquino, Robert Monteleone, and Joe Lauretano. Members not in picture: Jefferson Rabb, Sunita Viswanath, Stephan Shaw, Jim Edwards, and Drew Hodges.
TB Project Co-Director Mike Frick (right) participated in this side event of HLPF 2018 (High Level Political forum on Sustainable Development), titled “Human Centered Approach to Tuberculosis for Healthier Cities and Human Settlement.” This event focused on the global challenge of Tuberculosis which was the biggest killer infectious disease in the world in 2018, especially in the context of urban settings and human settlement and discussed how to make the UN High Level Meeting on TB as a tipping point to end TB by 2030. TAG added TB — a prominent HIV coinfection — to its mission in 2000.
Photos of one of TAG’s founders, Bob Rafsky, when he chained himself to the White House fence in 1991; he was mic’d up for a news piece about his life. Unfortunately, Bob died in 1993, just a year after TAG was created. The first image was taken by Ben Thornberry, who donated the “A Testament to Action: ACT UP, 1999” collection.
TAG’s ED Mark Harrington, (3rd from right front) in 2006 at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He was there to attend a meeting of the Core Group of the Stop TB Partnership TB/HIV Working Group (he was a member since 2003). Mark presented on HIV treatment literacy and how it could be applied to empowering communities affected by TB. Four years after this picture was taken, the Botusa trial of isoniazid preventive therapy reported results; TAG covered the WHO expert meeting on those results in this piece.
From TAG Update, December 2008: TAG executive director Mark Harrington addressed the XVII International AIDS Conference 2008 in Centro Banamex, Mexico City, August 8, 2008. Photo credit: International AIDS Society/Mondaphoto.
From TAG Update December, 2014: TAG’s Jeremiah Johnson joined ACT UP and allies outside Bellevue Hospital in New York City to demand evidence-based policies that support health care workers fighting Ebola. (Future TAG staff member Annette Guadino is standing in middle)