people who have assisted persons with AIDS in taking their lives have gone public in an effort to gain legalization of the practice of assisted suicide (Johnson, 1988). If anything, the role of volunteer service providers in advising clients about taking their own lives is more complicated than for professional health care providers because reciprocal duties and obligations between clients and volunteers may be less clearly defined than the relationship between patients and health care providers. AIDS volunteer organizations, in their volunteer training and program manuals, embrace a wide spectrum of views about the appropriate behavior when a client requests advice or assistance with suicide.


For some people affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, traditional volunteering through social service organizations has not provided enough of an outlet. Caring for others has not allowed them to express their anger or vent their frustration at what they believe to be a federal government without a plan to confront the epidemic or a leader to take charge. According to Maddocks (1989:1):

If volunteers operate only within existing government frames, they will tend to support the status quo. If they are encouraged to work outside official bodies, they will begin to develop an independent approach. Within the urban programmes, many young persons become "radicalized," and begin to express negative comments about government, and a greater commitment to change. This may be uncomfortable for governments but it is probably good for society.

In 1987 a loosely organized group of persons with AIDS and their friends and supporters was formed to mount a political challenge, largely at the behest of playwright Larry Kramer. By 1990 the group, known as the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP), had about 65 chapters throughout the country (Krieger, 1990). Larry Kramer, in characteristically unvarnished prose, described his reason for helping to found the new group: "I helped found Gay Men's Health Crisis and watched them turn into an organization of sissies. I founded ACT-UP and have watched them change the world" (quoted in Kolata, 1990:A-11). Others who have eschewed social volunteering in favor of political activism have concluded that the continued growth of voluntary organizations allows government to abdicate its responsibilities, crossing the "line separating civic duty and community solidarity from overdependence and governmental irresponsibility" (Arno, 1988:69).

ACT-UP had its roots in the white gay male community, but it soon attracted black and Hispanic gay men, lesbians, and heterosexual women. The largest and most visible ACT-UP chapter is in New York City, where

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