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Advocating for Facts, Dispelling Rumors

The Fighting Fear with Facts digital gallery presents four posters by different AIDS service organizations, in order to reach and educate public about using accurate information instead of rumors to prevent AIDS. Take a closer look at them under Group 1 and read their narratives, as you evaluate how each poster promotes accessing good health information as a first step in preventing HIV/AIDS. Also consider how and why the posters addressed the fear and social stigma of the disease.

Group 1
  • Black and white photograph with a multiracial group of adults and children holding each other’s hands above their heads
  • Blue background with black text, three squares with diagonal lines surround text at top
  • Color photograph of a group of demonstrators, one holding a sign, whose faces are blurred
  • Blue tinted photographs showing four people’s faces above a line of people talking on phones.
Black and white photograph with a multiracial group of adults and children holding each other’s hands above their heads
“Fight the fear with the facts” circa 1986
Courtesy National Library of Medicine Zoomify

In 1982, before the term AIDS existed, a group of four volunteers in Los Angeles set up an anonymous hotline to share what little information there was about preventing and recognizing the disease. What began with one phone and a single page of facts is now one of the largest AIDS service organizations in the country, offering support and information in more than a dozen languages to anyone seeking help.

Blue background with black text, three squares with diagonal lines surround text at top
Fight the fear with facts, 1980s
Courtesy National Library of Medicine

The early years of the AIDS epidemic were marked by steep increases in diagnoses, even as information on transmission, testing, and prevention proliferated. This disconnect persisted, in part, because getting information out to people was a difficult task. It meant prompting people to overcome fear, fight stigma, and make healthy choices. AIDAtlanta, formed in 1982 by a group of friends who became concerned enough to take action, began with simple posters that spread information about resources, such as the nationally available AIDS Hotline.

Color photograph of a group of demonstrators, one holding a sign, whose faces are blurred
Homophobia kills, 1993
Courtesy National Library of Medicine Zoomify

Activist groups emerged as quickly as the AIDS epidemic, helping to combat ignorance, fear, and social stigma, which prevented people from seeing and understanding AIDS as a public heath issue and taking action against it. This poster called for the gay community to mobilize and use the 1993 Gay Pride March to inform and educate fellow New Yorkers about AIDS.

Blue tinted photographs showing four people’s faces above a line of people talking on phones.
You are not alone, fight the fear, 1995
Courtesy National Library of Medicine Zoomify

In 1982, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis formed in a New York City apartment to advocate for AIDS research as well as provide outreach and education. By stressing community, solidarity, and support, this poster reminded people that everyone was frightened of this new disease and taking action meant being informed.

Group 2
  • Color photograph of a glass with brown liquid, with black text above and below,  with the exeption of “you can’t” which is red.
  • Photograph of a gravestone surrounded by a black border and text above and below.
  • Young white man and woman in a school, next to lockers smiling at each other.
  • Color drawings of four storyboard squares with stick figures drawn inside.
Color photograph of a glass with brown liquid, with black text above and below,  with the exeption of “you can’t” which is red.
Some people think you can catch AIDS from a glass, you can’t, 1980s
Courtesy National Library of Medicine Zoomify

Take a look at each of the posters in Group 2 as you consider the following questions:

  • Whom does the poster address mainly?
  • What facts does the poster convey, and what actions does it advocate?
  • How do these posters use images and words to do so?
  • What role does the fear or social stigma of HIV/AIDS plan in the poster? If any, how does that approach impact a perception of people living with HIV/AIDS?
Photograph of a gravestone surrounded by a black border and text above and below.
A bad reputation isn’t all you can get from sleeping around, 1980s
Courtesy National Library of Medicine Zoomify

Take a look at each of the posters in Group 2 as you consider the following questions:

  • Whom does the poster address mainly?
  • What facts does the poster convey, and what actions does it advocate?
  • How do these posters use images and words to do so?
  • What role does the fear or social stigma of HIV/AIDS plan in the poster? If any, how does that approach impact a perception of people living with HIV/AIDS?
Young white man and woman in a school, next to lockers smiling at each other.
Girls. Boys. Clothes. Friends. Weekends. Movies. Malls. AIDS. 1980s
Courtesy National Library of Medicine Zoomify

Take a look at each of the posters in Group 2 as you consider the following questions:

  • Whom does the poster address mainly?
  • What facts does the poster convey, and what actions does it advocate?
  • How do these posters use images and words to do so?
  • What role does the fear or social stigma of HIV/AIDS plan in the poster? If any, how does that approach impact a perception of people living with HIV/AIDS?
Color drawings of four storyboard squares with stick figures drawn inside.
The story of Jack and Jill, 1980s
Courtesy National Library of Medicine Zoomify

Take a look at each of the posters in Group 2 as you consider the following questions:

  • Whom does the poster address mainly?
  • What facts does the poster convey, and what actions does it advocate?
  • How do these posters use images and words to do so?
  • What role does the fear or social stigma of HIV/AIDS plan in the poster? If any, how does that approach impact a perception of people living with HIV/AIDS?