Since the beginning of the AIDS crisis, scholars have written extensively about AIDS activism as well as the impact of the epidemic on the epidemic had on the LGBT community. There has also been extensive writing on the level of political action taken to combat AIDS from several different academic perspectives. Limited literature on the relationship between social movements, activism, and political response exists, however, it is largely unorganized and convoluted. This project examines the collective action tactics used by activists during the AIDS crisis from 1981 to 2001 to determine what type of tactics are most successful in receiving a Federal response to demands made. I examine the history of the LGBT community to provide context for the AIDS crisis and the subsequent formation of a social movement; I also present the political opportunity structure as a theoretical framework to test which tactics are effective and the reason for their success. Finally, I attempt to create a concise narrative of the theory employed to present a succinct argument that is backed by existing scholarly work. In this study, I find that direct action tactics are most effective in galvanizing Federal action, and that the intensity of this relationship is heavily impacted by the level of disruption an event causes, the presence of a target, and that target’s political affiliation.


Ondercin, Heather


Political Science


American Politics


AIDS, case study, activism, social movement, political opportunity structure, HIV, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, federal response

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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