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Surviving & Thriving: AIDS, Politics, and Culture

“Please Be Safe” by the Northwest AIDS Foundation

Open Description

In 1987, with funding from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Seattle-based Northwest AIDS Foundation launched the “Please Be Safe” campaign to help gay and bisexual men reimagine their sexual behaviors. Using a different creative visual strategy than the sexually charged imagery of some contemporaneous public health efforts, this campaign used road signs—a straightforward, familiar set of symbols—to discuss and advertise sexual safety. The “Please be Safe” or “Rules of the Road” campaign used road signs and compelling, straightforward, community-specific language to help gay men engage in safer sex. The campaign sought to establish these practices as the new norm for all. The “Sexual Safety Card” featured on many of the posters provided quick and accessible information on activities at every level of safety.

The Northwest AIDS Foundation, in addition to producing public health posters, hosted open discussions of risk, testing processes, sexual health, and provided support for people with AIDS and their loved ones. In 2001, the organization merged with the Chicken Soup Brigade to form the Lifelong AIDS Alliance.