WEB POSTER EXHIBITION - 25 years of AIDS posters

25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters 1985–2010

This web exhibition accompanies a coming exhibition in the Stephen B. Paine Gallery at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, from September 13 – December 4, 2010 .

The work was curated primarily using the AIDs poster archive belonging to poster dealer and collector, James Lapides, International Poster Gallery, Boston, plus posters donated to the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston.

The exhibition was organized and curated by Elizabeth Resnick, Professor and Chair, Graphic Design Department, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, who kindly supplied pictures and text for the web exhibition, and Javier Cortes, Creative Director and Principal, Korn Design, Boston, Massachusetts.

The rampant spread of the HIV/AIDS virus over the past 29 years has created the most significant global public health crisis in modern history. Despite the complexity and scale of the epidemic, there is still a lack of worldwide strategies to lead AIDS education. AIDS education is many countries is still shouldered, to a great extent, by government agencies and grassroots organizations led by community activists who are often motivated local citizens.

Ever since the AIDS epidemic struck, the responsibility of educating the world’s public has gained dramatically in significance. In many countries, the poster as a medium of information was unknown before the emergence and identification of the HIV virus. With a disease involving sexuality and sexual behavior deeply rooted in culture and tradition, messages to raise awareness and encourage preventive behavior have varied depending on the intended audience.

The poster has played a special role in promoting AIDS awareness and safe sex education across cultures— different aims, messages, visual metaphors, and strategies have strongly influenced the content and design of AIDS posters. These messages can successfully reach specific targeted groups because the poster as a medium is cheap and easy to produce locally.

Regardless of cultural differences, AIDS posters are meaningful to viewers because they frequently draw on images from popular culture and express the living habits of people, which can vary in approach and style. As such, the messages in these posters can illuminate how public health educators and activists see themselves and their audiences, and how they conceptualize disease and define “normal” behavior within each given culture.

Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters 1985–2010 draws upon James Lapides’ extensive collection of international AIDS Awareness posters, and posters generously donated to the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. A selection of approximately 153 posters will provide an overview of the diverse visual strategies employed by many different countries working within their own distinctive cultural / social perspective in response to the subject of AIDS as a public health emergency.

A 96-page color exhibition catalog containing all 153 images and descriptive texts, with essays by Steven Heller and Chaz Maviyane-Davies and Suzi Peel, will be available for US$30.00 + postage as of September 5, 2010. Please contact Elizabeth Resnick at Elizabeth.Resnick@massart.edu for information about showing the exhibition at your venue, or for catalog sales.

Australia, Condoman says: Don't be shame be game. Use condoms! Protect yourself.
The Condoman character was part of a broader prevention campaign that targeted younger Aboriginal audiences.The image correlates masculinity and responsible sexual behavior by challenging the appeal of promiscuity and suggests that safe sex is not a reason to feel embarrassed or disgraced. Design: Redback Graphix for NACAIDS Canberra 1987. 76 x 53 cm.

Australia, Prevention of AIDS. Everybody's business
The two people are housed in condoms where they are safe from potentially infectious body fluids, which are indicated, in the outer patterning. The central image shows the continuation of normal lives without HIV infection through the use of condoms. This image also indicates the importance of protecting unborn children from AIDS. The poster depicts a man and a woman, one black and one white, shown protected within a condom-like enclosure. The female figure includes a glowing image of a womb.' Australian Aboriginal artist: Bronwyn Bancroft, © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Human Services and Health, AIDS/Communicable Diseases Branch, Canberra, Australia, 1992. 61 x 89 cm.

Canada, Grave monument, AIDS is still circulating 1981 -
The poster depicts a woman in the act of injecting herself with an implied infected needle in the form of a funerary stone statuary. The visual epitaph that the sculpture conveys, the consequence of practicing using infected needles, immediately shatters the artistic beauty of the image. Advertising Agency: MARKETEL, Creative Team: Gilles Dusablon, Linda Dawe, Stephane Gaulin. 2004. 33 x 43 cm.

Cuba, Enjoy Life, Avoid AIDS. How do I show that I love you?
The poster depicts a young man with his back to the viewer, holding a single flower and a condom in his left hand. Condom use is still stigmatized in many parts of the Caribbean, including Cuba. People are often too embarrassed to buy condoms in shops and even to use them with their partners. Design: Idania/David. Nd. 41.9 x 59.2 cm.

Czech Republic, With smile, with condom.
The poster depicts an illustrative image of five happy Elephants 'trumpeting' their support of using condoms to eradicate AIDS by wearing them on their trunks. National Support Center for Health Czech-Slovak-Swiss Health Organization. ©studio ART Daskova. © Nada Ocenásková, Zuzana Honsová. Translation: Bára K. Jíchová. 1993. 41.9 x 59.2 cm.

Egypt, Fighting AIDS and Methods to Escape it.
Caritas-Egypt AIDS Intervention Unit, Centre for AIDS Awareness and Consultation. This illustrative poster depicts AIDS as lethal as the 'eternal fire from hell' -it can engulf the viewer and the world in its ferocity if correct steps and measures are taken to ensure safety and health. The image of a syringe suggests the physicality of the disease with the large hand protecting the family from AIDS. Translation: Anum Awan, Sadia Shirazi. Anon. ca 1994. 40.6 x 68.6 cm.

Finland, 2004 AIDS Day.
Red ribbon is an internationally recognized symbol. By wearing it, a message of conscience and caring is sent to all people infected with HIV and the ones taking care of them. Please wear the red ribbon on the World Aids Day, or any day of the year.' This poster image suggests the red ribbon symbol as a binding 'hug' of caring and commitment. AIDS Day is a moment to commemorate people with AIDS and their loved ones who take care of them. Design: Jyri Konttinen. 2004. 29.6 x 42 cm.

France, Protect yourself. The only way to stop AIDS is you.
The poster image plays with a series of paradoxes to lure the viewer's curiosity and interest. Here the classic sign of danger - the skull, depicts the perils of AIDS and HIV virus. The paradox is in the series of nude women positioned form the image of the skull. The aesthetics of the nude figures draws the attention of the viewer while the 'skull' symbolizes the consequences of unprotected sex. Agency: TBWA/Paris. Creative Director: Erik Vervroegen, Art Director: Marianne Fonferrier / Stephanie Thomasson, Photography: Eric Traoré, inspired by a photograph made by Philippe Halsman in 1951. Translation: Lisa Rosowsky. 2003. 60 x 79.8 cm.

Hong Kong, Blocking out the facts won't make them go away. Call the AIDS Concern Hotline.
This poster is a classic example of Hong Kong's 'east meets west' sensibility. The caption 'blocking facts won't make them go away' is a very common and practical English phrase. Here it is applied to the Chinese sensibility of ignoring 'unpleasant or socially unacceptable' matters. The target audience for this poster would be a 'regular' client of sex workers in Hong Kong, where it is often common practice to have sex without a condom. Any discussion of issues surrounding 'sex work' remains a societal taboo in Hong Kong. 'Clients' therefore might have contacted HIV without realizing it. Anon. Organization: AIDS Concern. 1994. 41.8 x 56.8 cm

India, My husband has gone to the city to make more money, I hope he does not contract AIDS while he is there.
But if he resists temptations then he can never bring AIDS back home. Sexual intercourse without proper precautions results in the spread of AIDS.' The poster cautions to use protection when having sex with strangers. The central theme in this poster is male infidelity and with it an increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. The subject matter and title is extremely relevant to the target audience, in this instance the families in rural parts of the country, as most men tend to earn their living by going to the cities, and usually remain in the city for fairly long periods of time. This theme exposes the vicious cycle of poverty. Away from their families due to lack of funds and paid vacations, these men turn to sex workers, and are likely to be infected by them. India has a fairly large percentage of female sex workers who are HIV positive. Design: S. Gosh. Printing sponsored by East-West Committee, London for NGO-AIDS cell, Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS, New Delphi. UNESCO/AIDSTHI workshop, Bihar, India, March 1995. Hindi translation: Lakshmi Naidu. 57.5 x 45 cm.

Iran, Get tested before you get married.
The poster depicts two interacting pins-commonly referred to as safety pins-on a vibrant pink background. But unlike a regular pin, a safety pin is has a simple spring mechanism and a clasp. The clasp serves two purposes: to form a closed loop thereby properly fastening the pin to whatever it is applied to, and to cover the end of the pin to protect the user from the sharp point. The image reshapes the simple spring mechanism into a 'heart shape' and leaving one of the pins unfastened, and therefore potentially unsafe. The message is a clear interpretation of the 'safety pin' as a common house hold item. The images' metaphoric significance and usage of the color pink may signal its targeted constituency of females considering marriage in both rural and urban Iranian households. The poster employs a modern western design sensibility to portray a highly sensitive and intimate subject in a society with severe censorship laws. Design: Parisa Tashakori. 2007. 70 x 100 cm.

Iraq, AIDS: Suspicious Sex. Uneasy Conscience. Forbidden Behaviour. Deadly Diseases.
The poster depicts a woman's uncovered and bare legs suggestively stepping on a man's shoes suggesting an amorous encounter. However, in a male-dominated religious culture with severe censorship laws, the image of a woman may portray a 'distasteful' metaphor-an attempt to illustrate the grimness of the disease utilizing the human skull as a powerful representation of death and mortality, in an intimate kissing position. The image's iconography borrows heavily from the concept of 'eve as the originator of all sins' in reference to AIDS as the 'deadly female'. Artist: Mi'raj Faris. Republic of Iraq, Ministry of Health, Health Education Section. Translation: Anum Awan, Sadia Shirazi. 1992-1993. 49.7 x 70 cm.

Canada, HOPE.
Hope for a cure. Hope that together HIV/AIDS can be overcome. Hope for a better tomorrow by living a better today. Hope for more supportive communities. Hope that our people will once again thrive. Faith in the traditional strengths of our people. HIV/AIDS. The healing begins with us.' This poster is exclusively designed for the indigenous people of Canada. The message is of hope and health, with a series of images showing happy healthy men and women dancing, dating, entertaining and the eventual happy and healthy pregnancy as an outcome. Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Day December 1. Anon. nd. 35.5 x 66 cm.

France, Live long enough to find the good. Protect yourself.
The poster depicts a brightly rendered quilt of cartoon characters set in a timeline narrative that communicates to a wide range of ages and genders, as both an adolescent and an adult can equally relate to the lifestyle portrayed in the imagery. The poster is rendered in bright colors with a wide array of storylines, and is designed to come across as 'full of life' and 'happenings' as the title further accentuates this notion by declaring: live long enough to find the good. Drawing: Skwak. www.aides.org. Translation: Lisa Rosowsky. 2007. 60 x 40 cm.

Italy, AIDS The death of David Kirby.
The photo of AIDS activist David Kirby was taken in his room in the Ohio State University Hospital in May 1990, with his father, sister and niece at his bedside. The photo, taken in both black and white and color by Therese Frare, was part of a photographic documentary on the lives of clients and caregivers in a hospice for people with AIDS. The photograph was included in LIFE magazine in November 1990, and went on to win the 1991 World Press Photo Award. Tibor Kalman, working with Oliviero Toscani, was preparing a consciousness-raising campaign associated with Benetton products and culture. He saw the Frare photograph in Life Magazine and suggested that Benetton include it in their advertising campaign. Benetton approached the photographer and Kirby family, gaining consent for the use of the photograph and contributing to an AIDS foundation. When considering whether to stay with black and white or go with color the creative team decided that it needed to look like an advertisement, raising the shock value. (http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2007/benetton-pieta-in-aids-campaign) Concept: Tibor Kalman, Oliviero Toscani. Photo: Therese Frare. 1992. 42 x 29.6 cm.

Kenya, Using a condom means you really care.
The poster targets young African male and female adults in its depiction of a healthy young couple thinking about using a condom. The effect is further enhanced by the text emphasizing the significance of using a condom. Unlike many generic AIDS awareness posters, this poster does not sexualize the figures, particularly that of the female, but instead the couple is shown simply and conservatively dressed. The message stresses the importance of safe sex without the cliché of emphasizing any sexual context within the message. NGO AIDS Consortium with PATH. USAID/FHI/AIDSCAP. 41.5 x 59.2 cm.

Mexico, Unite for Children. Unite against Aids in Children.
The poster depicts a child's white paper boat afloat in a blood red sea of water mines. The paper boat is a metaphor for the fragility of children in imminent danger, while the water explosives suggest the urgency essential to protect innocent children against the menace of AIDS. The image accentuates the vulnerability and perils of being a child amidst the danger that HIV/AIDS can cause for themselves and their families. Design: Eduardo Barrera. Client: Unicef. 2007. 70 x 112 cm.

Papua New Guinea, Mary, I fancy you! Sapo, do you have a condom on you?
You haven't...I know you're not faithful. Prevent AIDS-use a condom. This is an educational poster emphasizing the importance of safe sex, and that it is "OK" to say NO.' The message advocates a sense of empowerment for women to refuse sex without precautionary measures taken by their partners. The message subverts the traditional approach of a male dominated sexual encounter by giving their female partners an equal and perhaps more responsible role in determining the eventual consequences of having safe sex as opposed to unprotected sex. The illustrative style employed in this poster is suggestive of comic book art, a very non-threatening form of communication used as information. Anon. Department of Health, Papua New Guinea. ca 1993. 48 x 61.5 cm.

South Korea, You Give Them Life, Don't Give Them AIDS.
This poster was designed to awaken the South Korean people to the emergency of the AIDS crisis. The principle image, a dark silhouette of a young child with hollowed out eyes suggesting 'death', is in sharp contrast to the abundance of colors and hues that render the background to represent 'life'. The four leaves in the child's hand symbolize 'nature'-the hope of a future-that it is not lost, if adequate precautions are taken to safeguard the child. The title message remains stark and to the point. Design: Choo Suk Byun. 1989. 72.5 x 108.5 cm.

Italy, Who's AFRAID of the Big Bad Wolf?
AIDS is not the big bad wolf. It is a serious illness, one that should be prevented with attention, and treated with every means available, but it is nothing more than an illness. Those who suffer from it should be helped in every way possible, not isolated and avoided like convicts. AIDS is fought also with caring and solidarity. Fear, solitude and isolation are the real big bad wolf.' European Institute of Design Milan, Department of Advanced Graphic Design on the occasion of the International AIDS Conference, Florence, Italy June 1991. Design: Andrea Rauch, Rauch Design. Translation: Ellen Shapiro. 1991. 70 x 100 cm.

Lebanon, Don't Stop Listening".
AIDS...And you, what do you think about it? Don't Stop Listening. Talk about it. Look people in the eye'. The poster is a modern day embodiment of 'the three wise monkeys', a pictorial proverb. Together the monkeys "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil". There are various meanings ascribed to the monkeys and the proverb. In the western world the phrase is often used to refer to those who deal with impropriety by looking the other way, refusing to acknowledge it, or feigning ignorance. Here it is used to suggest a similar message for the Lebanese people to overcome traditional and sexual taboos to protect their health and the health of their loved ones. ca 1993. 45.5 x 64 cm.

Morocco, Tradition doesn't rhyme with prevention.
This is a good example of a simple solution aimed at addressing a complex taboo subject present within a traditional religious culture. Henna is used to adorn young women's bodies as part of social and holiday celebrations. Henna hands generally symbolize 'wedding' although most young girls and women also decorate their hands in a similar fashion and pattern for other religious festive days. The henna designed hands shown in this poster signify both sex and marriage. The playful manner in with the hands hold the 'condom' conveys happiness and health. Its target audience of male and female Moroccan young adults can easily decode this message without offending their traditionalist cultural sensibility. The symbolism is an effective way of addressing safe sex within the context of marriage. ALCA Association de lutte contre le sida. 2005. 48 x 63.8 cm.

Spain, Condoms work all night.
The poster depicts the image of a 'condom' personifying the viewer. The condom figure reclines on an office chair with a coffee on the desk to help it through the nights work. The comic yet humane approach immediately helps the targeted viewer, young working adults, to connect to the message relayed and to accept its educational input with a smile. Fundación Anti-AIDS España. Sponsored by Levi Strauss Foundation. Anon.1998. 48 x 69 cm.

The Netherlands, Wrap it up, or clear off. I screw safely or I don't screw at all.
(girl and guy). This set of posters is an excellent example of the culture bias of the Netherlands-open acceptance to sexual preferences. The casualness of the caption applicable to both the gay and heterosexual couple, is further accentuated by the almost 'comic' placement of the 'condom' on the nude male model. This is a publication of the Public Campaign Project Group AIDs/SOA (AIDS/Sexually Transmitted Illnesses) in association with the VWS (Ministry of Public Health, Welfare, and Sports). In addition, this is supported by the Prevention Fund (Praeventiefonds). Anon. Translation: Alston Purvis. ca 1995. 16.5 x 23.3 (42 x 59.5 cm)

Trinidad and Tobago, AIDS. Don't be afraid be aware.
The National AIDS Programme of Trinidad and Tobago. Funded by the Pan American Health Organization. Design: Illya Furlonge-Walker for the Form and Function Design Group. ca. 1994. 44 x 60 cm.

Uganda, What does a person with AIDS look like?
AIDS can look like many other diseases. Don't be confused. Don't spread rumours. See a qualified medical person for tests if you think you or someone yoiu know may have AIDS. Additional poster text: AIDS or measles? AIDS or tuberculosis? AIDS or alcoholism? AIDS or malnutrition? AIDS or typhoid? AIDS or cancer? See a qualified medical person for tests if you think you or someone you know may have AIDS.' The poster depicts images of everyday people surrounded by an explanatory text that questions the viewer's preconceived notion on AIDS and the rumors and misconceptions that surround it. There is a complete absence of any symbolic or decorative element within the poster, even the use of color is kept to a minimum, so as to not distract the viewer from the central and direct/verbal message being conveyed by the poster. Uganda School Health Kit on AIDS Control (Item 6) Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health (AIDS Control Programme), Unicef Kampala_English. Anon. ca 1993. 59.5 x 42 cm.

Russia, AIDS does not sleep.
This poster depicts a larger than life figure of a sphinx-like creature composed of the head and torso of a pretty woman with dramatically rendered oversized wings. The key elements in this composition include the use of syringes and needles to render the over sized wings, the contemptuously protruding breasts pointed toward the viewer and referencing the abundant supply of drugs and sex within contemporary Russian society. The Sphinx-like creature plays the role of a 'Temptress' enticing those native enough to sample her charms. The sharp diagonal of the text cautioning 'AIDS never sleeps' further frames and brings emphasis to the syringe laden wings of this salacious creature intensifying the poster's message to be beware that drug addiction that can lead to HIV infection through the sharing of needles. Designer: O. Dulatova, Editor/Copywriter: N. Shubina, Production Artist: V. Scherban' "Panorama" Publishing House, Moscow. Translation: Vlad Ivashin. 1990. 65.2 x 46.5 cm.

Sweden, Make Love not AIDS.
Making love can end in so many ways. The best case scenario ends with two fortunate souls. In other cases it ends with an unwanted pregnancy. More often it ends with a STD. Worse case scenario, it ends with HIV. What can you make to make your sexual encounter end 'happily ever after?' Love Power is supported by RFSU, the Swedish Organisation for sexual education, RFSL, The Swedish Organisation for sexual equality, and People's Health Institute, Department of Health. Design: Garbergs. Translation: Roger Savonen. ca 1993. 70 x 50 cm.

Switzerland, Love Life Stop AIDS.
No action without protection. 1. No intercourse without a condom. 2. No sperm or blood in the mouth. The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health and the Swiss Aids Federation: Safer sex is the best way to protect yourself from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.' The poster image depicts two women fencing suggesting their activity is 'dangerous' as they are unclothed and unprotected. Agency: EURO RSCG Zuerich. Nd. 49.8 x 69.7 cm

Uganda, AIDS. You are capable of protecting yourself.
(couple under umbrella). Published by STD/AIDS Control Programme, Ministry of Health, P.O. Box 8 Entebbe (Uganda). 41.8 x 59.2 cm.

USA, Hope. Don't Trash It. Patients in Africa are dying to get their hands on your unused meds.
Viral Hope is an outreach program initiative, which is located at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College. Viral Hope collects used antiretroviral medications to support the care of people in Nigeria who are HIV positive. Three posters were designed to evoke a handmade raw look and feel. Unpolished and honest in its message, the posters were sent to HIV facilities to create awareness around the HIV issues and how to help. ©2007 The Starfish Project. Illustration: Edel Rodriguez. Agency: Cline Davis Mann LLC. 60.7 x 96.4 cm

Zimbabwe, I am not my Disease.
This poster was designed for an exhibition at the 12th World AIDS Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Design: Chaz Maviyane-Davies, Photography: Ian Murphy, Client: Aujourd'hui Pour Demain, Switzerland. 1998. 84.1 x 59.4 cm.

Zimbabwe, Spread facts not fear.
You can not get AIDS from...Mosquito bits, living with a parent or relative with AIDS, shaking hands or touching people, sharing cups, plates, knives and forks, sharing toilets and bath tubs, couching, sneezing or talking. Remember People with AIDS need our care.' Anon. ca. 1993. 41.5 x 59.5 cm.

Switzerland, Without? Without me.
Prevention Campaign of Swiss AIDS Assistance, in collaboration with the Federal Office of Health. STOP AIDS'. The poster image depicts a a young women dairy farmer dressed in a ethnic clothing standing in front of a cow. In the background is a barn with a young man relaxing on the hay possibly awaiting her arrival. Her closed right hand is raised with thumb pointing up in a "thumbs up" sign; on her thumb is a condom. The word 'senza' (without) is above the condom. The message is that a young, woman from a rural farming area will not have sex unless condoms are used for protection. Agency: CR Basel: Art Director: Thomas Schaub, Designer: Hannes Huber, Photographer: Markus Roessle, Copywriter: René Fisch. Client: Federal Office of Public Health, Basel, Switzerland. ca between 1987-2003. 59.1 x 28.2 cm.

USA, Ignorance = Fear. Silence = Death. Fight AIDS Act Up.
The goal of this poster was to bring attention to the prejudice surrounding the growing AIDS crisis in the late 1980s. 'Silence = Death'-a painting by Keith Haring-depicts three figures in positions that suggest a modern day embodiment of 'the three wise monkeys who "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil". There are various meanings ascribed to the monkeys and the proverb. In the western world the phrase is often used to refer to those who deal with impropriety by looking the other way, refusing to acknowledge it, or feigning ignorance. Here it the purpose is to campaign on behalf of the American people to overcome the prejudice that prevents protecting their health and the health of their loved ones. Haring, a social activist and a gay man who was actively involved with ACT UP, died of AIDS complications in 1990. Painting: Keith Haring. 1989. 109.2 x 61 cm.

Vietnam, The youth, let's help to stop AIDS!
The poster depicts an image of a young women speaking into a microphone announcing the dangers of AIDS. The 's' of SIDA (AIDS) serves to unify the left side of the poster with the right side where a visual narrative outlining the dangers of using infected needles on the unborn child is made clear. Design: Dutong Ánk. 1992. 54.5 x 79.2 cm.

Links to AIDS posters

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