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Words Laura Bannister
Images courtesy Wellcome Library, London

The best AIDS awareness posters from London’s Wellcome Images

In 2014, Wellcome Images split their archives wide open, releasing 100,000 pieces of visual culture for users to copy, distribute, edit and manipulate for personal or commercial use. There were Goya etchings and Persian horoscopes for the 15th-century prince Iskandar. There were details from 1800s paintings-in-books detailing the Life of Buddha, and stock-like photographs of scientists in the labs at Oxford University. Among the treasures is a hefty collection of printed advertising ephemera plucked from around the world relating to the AIDS crisis, gay life, and the combatting of homophobia. Museum has sifted through to pick out the best: cleverly designed, heartwarming, heartbreaking, all of it.

Left

A gay couple—one dressed in the garb of a sailor—hold up condoms with the message: “Your condom or mine. I have safe sex or no sex.” The advertisement was by Stichting soa-bestrijding, Utrecht, published in the 1990s.

Right

In this colour lithograph advertisement, a man’s arm holds a syringe poised to inject a woman’s arm—an advertisement for the AIDS Project by the California Department of Health Services. Date unknown.

Left

In this Australian image from the 1990s, a young man wears a cross-bearing chain with a message detailing his pride in being gay, along with a list of national contacts for free condidental support groups for gay men in Australia—a country where equal marriage still feels like a pipedream, despite widespread public support. The ad is by the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, and the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre.

Right

Another educational poster for the hearing impaired; this one from the AIDS Education/Services for the Deaf in Los Angeles.

Left

In this colour lithograph—date unknown—hands spell out ‘World AIDS Day’ in sign language. It’s published by Deaf Mesmac, London.

Right

Mixed emotion. A Japanese AIDS prevention advertisement from Hokendojinsha (Public Health Members Committee), dated around 1996.

Left

Don’t be afraid, be aware! This AIDS awareness poster—also from 1996—features an illustration by  Illya Furlonge-Walker. It aimed to decrease fear and confusion around the disease, in which there is a severe loss of the body’s cellular immunity, and encourage those susceptible to educate themselves.

Right

A poster from the AIDS Council of NSW.

Left

Countering misinformation and fear, from the 1990s America responds to AIDS advertising campaign by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Right

In this 1990 ad for the HIV antibody test by the American Indian Healthcare Association, in Minnesota, artist Ernie Whiteman depicts a woman with long hair and a striped robe in a purple landscape, other figures dotted behind her.

Left

Two women put their heads together as a reminder that HIV concerns everyone. The black and white lithograph was commissioned by the Black HIV/AIDS Network, London.

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