Sex, Drugs And HIV-Phobia: 10 Lessons From Early AIDS Awareness Posters

This year’s World AIDS Day also marks the 30th year of the pandemic. So over this month we’ll be examining AIDS-related poster campaigns, works of art and interviews with contemporary HIV-positive LGBTs to discuss the best way to promote prevention in an age where HIV is no longer a death sentence and the younger generation feels increasingly open to bareback sex.

The posters shown here span a time from the dawn of AIDS—when people knew very little about the disease—to the 1990s, when the high cost of HIV treatments offset a new wave of LGBT activism. The posters faced the enormous task of changing public attitudes and behaviors amongst widespread ignorance and fear.

And while some of the campaigns’ ideas and messages evolved and remain a vital part of our current HIV conversations, others have seemingly vanished from public discourse, reminding us of the numerous social factors that complicate the road to an eventual cure.

If you like, you can check out more AIDS awareness campaign posters at the University of Minnesota’s AIDS Poster Collection and in the River Campus Libraries Special Collections.


Click through for a slide show of AIDS awareness campaign posters