This essay examines queer responses to the first wave of the HIV/AIDS epidemic alongside public health practices at a recent ASTR conference held during the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors focus especially on the period between the identification of the HIV virus in 1983 and the first availability of protease inhibitors in 1996. Within this period, queer practices of care in the face of government neglect engaged with performance, and in retrospect were themselves a form of performance theory that literalized performance studies' fixation on liveness and mortality. As the authors revisit archives, including public health videos, memoirs, congressional hearings, and queer criticism from the 1980s and '90s, they reconsider the work of Cindy Patton, David Román, Douglas Crimp, Eric Michaels, Gary Fisher, Herbert Blau, and Reza Abdoh in the elaboration of performance as vital to the collective project of public health.