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UConn Exhibits Mark 35 Years of HIV/AIDS

David Wojnarowicz
Courtesy the William Benton Museum of Art at UConn
David Wojnarowicz, Untitled (Buffalo), 1988, Platinum Print. The exhibit has images produced in response to the AIDS epidemic, or by artists and activists seeking to control the way the disease was perceived by the public.
Credit University of Connecticut
University of Connecticut
Dr. Thomas Lawrence Long of UConn.

Three exhibitions at the University of Connecticut explore the social and political history of HIV/AIDS and mark 35 years since the first cases were diagnosed.  

Associate professor-in-residence, Dr. Thomas Lawrence Long, said the idea came to him while teaching a course on AIDS and culture.

"One of the things that struck me," he said, "was that most of our undergraduates have never lived in a world without AIDS. Many of them were completely unaware of the struggles that HIV-infected people and their families encountered in the 1980s." Long was a recent guest on WNPR’s Where We Live

The UConn exhibitions reflect changes over time, as a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS went from being a death sentence, to a chronic disease which could be managed. Visitors to the Dodd Research Center can see some of the first materials and publications on safe sex, as well as images created in response to HIV/AIDS by grassroots organizations.

Credit Courtesy UConn
Courtesy UConn
Guerrilla Girls, Missing in Action, 1991, Poster.

Credit Courtesy UConn
Courtesy UConn
State of Connecticut Department of Public Health AIDS information brochures, 1988.

"Early in the HIV epidemic, it was alternative presses and alternative publishers that published some of the first novels and plays related to HIV/AIDS," Long said. "When they go to the Benton Museum, they’re going to see a very fine exhibit directly related to art, graphics, images during the HIV/AIDS epidemic’s worst years. Finally, in the School of Nursing -- just opened this week -- people will see the National Library of Medicine’s exhibit as well as an exhibit case I’ve prepared of artifacts related to nursing and nursing care."

A total of 11.7 million people died worldwide from HIV/AIDS before the introduction of protease inhibitors and other anti-retroviral medications, according to a 1998 World Health Organization report.

Long said that today, there are many different AIDS epidemics depending on your socioeconomic position, with black and Latino men and transgender women disproportionately affected.

Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.

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