12 Impactful AIDS Awareness Posters From Around the World
Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters features 153 posters created in the past 25 years by artists and designers. Exhibition text and images courtesy Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
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The global AIDS epidemic has delivered one of the most crippling strikes to the world's health care system, and in its wake, artists and designers worldwide have embarked upon a campaign to prevent its spread. A new show, Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters, recently opened at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, showcasing 153 posters that have been created to combat the AIDS crisis over the past 25 years.
Co-curators Elizabeth Resnick and Javier Cortés wanted to showcase the diverse ways that cultures around the world have used graphic design to bring awareness to the disease. From providing basic AIDS education to encouraging people to wear condoms to protesting for equal rights for HIV-positive citizens, each poster strives to accurately convey information, but also to get the attention of its audience, even when addressing some delicate topics like sexuality and death. Here are 12 of the most interesting from around the world, exhibition text and images courtesy of Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
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 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. ACT UP
The poster depicts a photograph of a condom with the addition of red striping to suggest a boat's ring-shaped life preserver. This was a self-initiated project for the designer to express his philosophy on the role of design for social and political advocacy—a positive approach against negative HIV results.
Design: Yossi Lemel, Photography: G. Korisky
Conceived for the competition "Positive Contacts" held in Biella, Italy in 2002, and inspired by the trademark of an African musician involved in the fight against AIDS, this poster took second prize. Although the image was never published, except in postcard form, the postcards were distributed in places frequented by youth. In a short time the image became a cult object.
Design: Mauro Bubbico
The poster depicts two safety pins on a bright blue background. The image plays with the shape on one of the pins, bending it outward suggesting a "baby bump" and filling the negative space with a small safety pin suggesting a fetus. The image's metaphoric significance and usage of the color blue may signal its targeted constituency of males in both rural and urban Iranian households considering marriage and starting a family. 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
Translation: "AIDS is an untreatable disease. It spreads through unsafe sex. Through infected blood. From pregnant mother to the child. Through infected needles."
The poster depicts two women, possibly a daughter (left) and her mother (right), standing in their home. The mother is speaking to her daughter about how AIDS can be transmitted through four examples found to the right of the poster. The image is rendered in an illustrative pictorial style, simple, unembellished and easily accessible to its target audience of women primarily living in the rural areas of India.
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
Translation: "If you would like to hold an awareness session on AIDS, please contact us. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not be embarrassed or hesitate to call us at this number. Total secrecy is our motto."
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 not 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.
Egypt, ca. 1994
Translation: "Enjoy Life, Avoid AIDS. How do I Show that I Love You?"
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. Since most of the AIDS cases reported in Cuba are among men having sex with men, these posters are designed to be suggestively ambiguous to cater to both same sex partners as well as heterosexual couples.
Design: Idania/Del Rio
The poster image depicts a chain-link fence made from AIDS ribbons. Its visual message coupled with the caption 'Do Not Punish' advocates for an anti-discrimination policy for AIDS sufferers. A student submitted this poster for the "Good 50 x 70" poster competition. It was selected as one of the best posters of 2009.
Design: Ismail Anil Güzelis
The poster depicts a woman's uncovered and bare legs 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 suggest 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
The poster depicts images of everyday people surrounded by an explanatory text that questions the viewer's preconceived notion of 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 message being conveyed by the poster. The poster operates on two levels—first to dispel false notions about people with the disease and the AIDS epidemic itself. Second, to educate the mass population by identifying more acceptable yet equally chronic diseases such as typhoid, cancer, TB, measles and even alcoholism. The message suggests that one should not assume that someone has AIDS just because they appear sick, along with the importance of testing for people who suspect they have AIDS.
Anon, Uganda School Health Kit on AIDS Control (Item 6) Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health (AIDS Control Programme), UNICEF Kampala
Uganda, ca 1993
This poster uses bright primary colors, playful hand-drawn type and simple illustrations reminiscent of comic books to draw the viewer in, and make accessible what may otherwise be a frightening or off-putting message
Design: AIDS Counseling Trust (ACT)
Zimbabwe, ca. 1993
This poster depicts 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 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 naive enough to sample her charms. The sharp diagonal of the text cautioning that "AIDS never sleeps" further frames and brings emphasis to the syringe-laden wings of this salacious creature—intensifying the poster's message to be aware that drug addiction can lead to HIV infection through the sharing of needles.
Design: O. Dulatova, Editor/Copywriter: N. Shubina, Production Artist: V. Scherban, Panorama Publishing House, Moscow