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NLM launches “Surviving and Thriving: AIDS, Politics, and Culture – Traveling Banner Display and Online Exhibition”

Robert C. Gallo, MD, at the National Institutes of Health, early 1980sThe National Library of Medicine has launched a traveling banner exhibition and online adaptation of Surviving and Thriving: AIDS, Politics, and Culture, an exploration of the rise of AIDS in the early 1980′s and the evolving response to the epidemic over the last 30 years. In 1981, a new disease appeared in the United States. Reactions to the disease, soon named AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), varied. The exhibition illustrates an iconic history of AIDS alongside lesser-known examples of historical figures who changed the course of the pandemic. Utilizing a variety of historic photographs, pamphlets, and publications, Surviving and Thriving is divided into five historical investigations, each of which highlights how different groups responded to AIDS. Early responders cared for the sick, fought homophobia, and promoted new practices to keep people healthy. Scientists and public health officials struggled to understand the disease and how it spread. Politicians remained largely silent until the epidemic became too big to ignore. Activists demanded that people with AIDS be part of the solution. Early stops for the traveling banner exhibition include the University of California, San Francisco, CA, during November 25, 2013, to January 4, 2014.

The title Surviving and Thriving comes from a book written in 1987 by and for people with AIDS that insisted people could live with AIDS, not just die from it. Jennifer Brier, PhD (University of Illinois at Chicago), the exhibition’s curator, explains that, “centering the experience of people with AIDS in the exhibition allows us to see how critical they were, and continue to be, in the political and medical fight against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/AIDS.” This exhibition presents their stories alongside those of others involved in the national AIDS crisis. The companion website includes an extensive selection of NLM’s diverse poster collection about HIV/AIDS. This “Digital Gallery” displays 238 posters grouped into fifteen thematic clusters, providing viewers new historical avenues to explore beyond the exhibition. Brier sees these as invaluable resources for multiple audiences: “not only will these visual materials be incredibly useful for teachers interested in engaging students in historical thinking about HIV/AIDS, but they will also allow the general public to learn more about how public health efforts relied on graphic design and imagery to effect behavior change.” The website is augmented by education resources that investigate the exhibition content, including two lesson plans for grades 10-12; three six-class higher education modules; and two online activities. In addition, a selection of published landmark HIV/AIDS articles are provided by NLM’s PubMed Central, which freely provides access to over 2.8 million life science journal articles, and modern day information is provided by AIDSInfo/InfoSIDA.

For more information about booking the Surviving and Thriving: AIDS, Politics, and Culture exhibit for your library, visit the traveling banner exhibition web site!

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