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ACT-UP Co-Founder Carl Goodman Commits Suicide

by Joe Siegel
Contributor
Monday Jan 13, 2014
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Mario Cavero, left, and Carl Goodman, right.
Mario Cavero, left, and Carl Goodman, right.  (Source:The Petrelis Files)

Carl Goodman, a longtime AIDS activist and co-founder of AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP), which held protests against government inaction in the 80s, took his own life on Jan. 5. He was 58.

Michael Petrelis, blogger and LGBT activist, who was also one of the co-founders of ACT-UP, broke the news on his blog on Jan. 6.

Goodman reportedly committed suicide on Jan. 5 by jumping to his death off the Mount Hope Bridge in Bristol, R.I. Goodman, who was living with AIDS, lived in Bristol, R.I., and is survived by his husband Mario Cavero.

The Providence Journal reported that Goodman was "a consultant who does business development and training for lawyers."

ACT-UP was founded in 1987 at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York. The organization devoted itself to passing legislation regarding the treatment of people living with AIDS, as well as funding medical research and policies to bring an end to the epidemic. Their well-known motto, featured on signs, posters, and T-shirts was "Silence = Death."

One of ACT-UP’s biggest accomplishments was shutting down the Food and Drug Administration in 1988 for a day, after a widely attended demonstration.

"We’ve lost a long-term AIDS survivor who ended his life with an act of suicide," Petrelis told EDGE.

Petrelis met Goodman in 1986, when Goodman was not happy with the price of the medications that were being prescribed for people with AIDS, like Zidovudine, or AZT.

"In the case of AZT, when AZT first came along, Carl was not positive at that point," Petrelis recalled. "Still, he was upset that the (recommended) dose of AZT was way too high."

Goodman worked on ACT-UP’s data and treatment committees, where discussions were held at meetings on how to get the drugs distributed to people.

On his blog, The Petrelis Files, Petrelis recalled how in 1992, he and Goodman lobbied then presidential candidate and Arkansas governor Bill Clinton "to address Arkansas’s sodomy law, one that equated gay sex and bestiality and prohibited both, and our secondary goal was to highlight Clinton’s very weak record on AIDS matters."

"The passing of Carl Goodman on January 5th a great advocate in the ACT UP community is a loss and a reminder of the Co-founder efforts to change how we treat patients with HIV," said Paul Fitzgerald, CEO of AIDS Care Ocean State in a statement. "AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power brought the struggle of living and dying with AIDS to the foundations of health policy - big Pharma and big government. All issues were on the table access to care, clinical trials, safe sex and healthy housing. Carl will be missed and remembered with dignity and alliance to the cause."

Petrelis said, like many other AIDS activists, Goodman suffered from depression. He also noted the suicides of numerous other AIDS activists over the last few years.

In 2009, gay rights activist Rodger McFarlane committed suicide at the age of 54 in New Mexico. McFarlane served as the first paid director of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GHMC) and later served in leadership positions with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Bailey House, and the Gill Foundation. McFarlane lived in Manhattan for a number of years, taking care of brother David, before he succumbed to AIDS 12 years ago.

Petrelis said the entire AIDS community is dealing with the shock of Goodman’s death. He believes there is a very major problem impacting a portion of the LGBT community.

"There is a suicide crisis among aging gay men," Petrelis said. "I mean gay men above 50 with AIDS [who are] taking their own lives. Unfortunately, we don’t value older gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders. We don’t honor our elders. We don’t take care of them."

Petrelis remains frustrated by what he perceives as a lack of recognition and honor for AIDS survivors, who also worked to save lives and end the epidemic. Petrelis also believes, however, Goodman’s legacy of activism on behalf of those living with the disease will never be forgotten.

"Carl fought the good fight, pushed AIDS and queer issues to the forefront of the community and media agenda regardless of popularity, possessed tremendous ethical standards and was also a very funny friend with a great giggle,"Petrelis added. "He is sorely missed."

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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