A baker balances pies on his head.
Wellcome Images No. L0052155
A project to catalogue and digitise the Library’s collection of 3,000 international AIDS posters has just been completed. Forming one of the largest collections in the world, almost all the posters were acquired from a single collector based in Amsterdam. They derive from 99 countries and include a staggering 75 different languages. The two largest collections come from the USA and Germany. Posters from the latter country proved also to be the most graphic.
The posters offer an insight into the reactions and prejudices surrounding the worldwide AIDS epidemic during the 1980s and ’90s. They were designed to be displayed to warn people against the causes of AIDS, to educate them on the disease and reveal health policies and concerns in specific countries and regions through a variety of words and designs.
Dates of the posters range from 1978, before AIDS became known, to 1998 as it continued to be a concern. The early posters during the 1980s relay simple messages about how the disease is transmitted. Extensive advertising campaigns raising awareness were produced as the AIDS epidemic increased. More complex messages about the signs of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases appear throughout the period but the majority of posters simply hammer home the importance of safer sex and condoms.
Digital images of the copyright-cleared collection (work on this is still ongoing) are freely available online via Wellcome Images. See a selection of posters in the Image gallery. The full range of posters are described on the Wellcome Library catalogue.