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

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1987 – I Have AIDS. Please Hug Me.
created by the Center for Attitudinal Healing

In 1984, 13-year old Ryan White learned that he had contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion as a three-day-old. When White tried to return to his middle school, 117 parents and 50 teachers signed a petition asking the administrators to forbid his return. The day they school board finally allowed White to return, half of his 360 schoolmates stayed home.

White’s school required him to eat with disposable utensils, use separate bathrooms and forbade him from taking gym class. His family faced hostility, homophobia, legal and death threats—when someone fired a bullet through their window, they finally changed neighborhoods.

The poster’s colorful child-like drawing and compassionate plea for acceptance stem directly from White’s story, stressing the need for empathy and knowledge over ignorance and discrimination.