it's a sin act up

HBO Max/YouTube

ACT UP says HBO Max never asked permission to feature pin in ‘It’s a Sin’ swag

'This is how history gets erased and communities get neglected.'


Audra Schroeder

Internet Culture

Published Mar 3, 2021   Updated Mar 4, 2021, 10:01 am CST

The HBO Max miniseries It’s a Sin documents the lives of a group of friends in 1980s London as they grapple with the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic. It’s picked up mostly positive reviews and nods for its casting.

But one piece of merch started a conversation about the commodification of protest movements.

On Tuesday, Jason Rosenberg, an ACT UP New York member, tweeted out a photo from an Instagram story of It’s a Sin swag that was sent out by HBO Max. Included was an ACT UP pin, though Rosenberg states the group was never contacted for permission, and the series doesn’t reference the organization.

ACT UP is an advocacy group founded in 1987 to combat the inaction around the AIDS epidemic via protests and direct action. It’s still very active and ACT UP’s New York chapter tweeted out on Tuesday that members were protesting New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and that it did not “grant permission for you to use our button for some nostalgia tv show promo accessory.”

While some commenters didn’t see an issue, in a follow-up tweet, Rosenberg lamented that “It’s strange to watch ACT UP once again get used as some type of corporate accessory. As if ACT UP doesn’t still exist and HIV isn’t still ongoing. This is how history gets erased and communities get neglected.”

We’ve reached out to HBO Max for comment.

Share this article
*First Published: Mar 3, 2021, 10:48 am CST