World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day, not that you would know from the TV coverage, have you seen any mention of it? World AIDS Day was observed for the first time on 1 December, 1988. So much has changed since the early days of HIV/AIDS or GRID or HTLVIII as it’s been called over the years, but so many things remain the same.

The biggest change is that HIV is much more manageable than it once was. It isn’t a death sentence anymore, and similar to Diabetes, with care and the right combination of medication can, to a degree be controlled. It never used to be this way. What hasn’t changed is the stigma, even now people are often afraid to ‘come out’ as HIV positive and there is still press that sneeringly reports on the subject with a judgemental tone.

HIV/AIDS came to prominence at the same time that I started out as a graphic designer and I have designed a lot of public health awareness material over this time. Some of these early materials were groundbreaking at the time because they deliberately challenged the negativity and gloom of Government campaigns that seemed to want to scare everyone into abstinence. Whilst we were being asked not to die of ignorance with visuals of gravestones and collapsing icebergs I was working as a teenager on colourful, hand rendered illustrations and typography to promote positive messages about taking care and not being judgemental.

These resources gradually spread far and wide and it was flattering to discover plagiarised variants cropping up on the International AIDS ‘conference circuit’. I remember proudly having an assortment of materials displayed in a glass case at the launch of the Design Museum in London, in a frame at the National Portrait Gallery, positively critiqued on TV by the artist Peter Blake and on millions of condom packs when I designed the logo for World AIDS Day back in the early 1990s. I met many supportive celebrities including Princess Diana, Ben Elton, Jimmy Somerville and our simple materials shone out like a colourful rainbow at the darkest of times.

Things have improved, but it’s only the media coverage of HIV/AIDS that has gone away. People are still contracting the virus and only yesterday I read that half of those diagnosed with HIV in 2010 were heterosexual and and there was an estimated 3,000 new diagnoses among gay men in the UK, the highest number since records began. Are you wearing a red ribbon today?

World AIDS Day
‘Don’t die of ignorance’ TV advert

  • Sandra

    Yes, I am wearing a red ribbon! Fab pic of Jimmy with your art work! I remember that campaign so vividly! It was all over the TV and soooo depressing! I wish they would do a new campaign and make the public aware. I havent even seen anything about it today in the media! We also used to do a yearly campaign in Health promotion but havent done anything for 2 years! I did say to my manager that it is too important for us to do nothing! Lets see what happens next year!
    Really nice article though Andrew! xx

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