John Stuban moved from New York City to Baltimore, Maryland in 1987 and settled in this small row-house on Tyson Street. That same year, a group of New York City activists founded ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). The new organization focused on bringing new visibility to AIDS and HIV through disruptive direct action. Since 1981, the number of known AIDS cases had grown from 234 to over forty thousand. Despite the growing crisis, President Ronald Reagan did not even acknowledge the existence of the disease until 1985 and didn’t hold a press conference on the topic until 1987.
ACT UP criticized the lack of action by the federal government by staging “die-ins,” where protestor laid on the ground wearing t-shirts with the words “Silence=Death” and blocking roads until they were bodily removed by law enforcement. John Stuban brought this same approach to AIDS activism to Baltimore when he helped found a local chapter in 1990.