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“Surviving & Thriving: AIDS, Politics and Culture” on Display at UCSF Library!

by Peggy Tahir, MLIS, MA, Education & Copyright Librarian
Library & Center for Knowledge Management
University of California, San Francisco

The University of California, San Francisco Library is currently hosting the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) traveling exhibit Surviving & Thriving: AIDS, Politics and Culture. The exhibit will be on display until January 4, 2014, at the UCSF Library, Parnassus Campus, main floor. The exhibit highlights stories from those involved in the AIDS crisis, and it covers the history of the epidemic, including the scientific discovery of the AIDS virus, and the effect of the epidemic on individuals and the country as a whole. It provides insight into the initial government resistance to the epidemic and inaction during the early years of the crisis under President Reagan’s tenure. Reagan did not publicly address the AIDS crisis for five years, and it took ten years of the epidemic for Congress to pass legislation for AIDS treatment for the poor and underserved.

Photo of NLM Travelling Exhibit Displays

Political activism eventually led to changes in the testing of AIDS drugs, and to new drugs being made available, as well as allowing women with AIDS to receive care and treatment. Because the initial definition of the disease excluded women as those affected by AIDS, they were unable to be given the diagnosis of AIDS even if they had contracted the disease; they could not receive access to care even as they perished from AIDS. Many dedicated health professionals and activists continue to work together to find new ways to care for those with HIV/AIDS and prevent the disease from spreading.

Library staff set up the exhibit in the main lobby of the Parnassus campus library. This provides ample opportunity for many people to view the exhibit. The large posters were easily set up by staff and create a focal point in our revolving exhibit area. Because the main floor of the library also contains a large study area, known to users as “the living room,” many patrons using the living room for study can take a break to view the exhibit. The NLM’s History of Medicine Division has developed a number of exhibits that can travel throughout the country. Their traveling exhibits cover topics such as medicine & the arts, science & society, and patients & practitioners. More information about booking a traveling exhibition is available from the NLM’s Exhibition Program website.

Adjacent to the NLM exhibit is an exhibit on the UCSF AIDS History Project (AHP), entitled UCSF AIDS History Project: Documenting the Epidemic. The AHP began in 1987 as a joint effort of historians, archivists, AIDS activists, health care providers, and others, to secure historically significant resources of the response to the AIDS crisis in San Francisco. The UCSF Archives & Special Collections began receiving grants in 1991 to fund collecting and describing materials related to the epidemic. The AHP contains records from community-based organizations and other agencies, diaries and personal papers of AIDS activists, papers from local health practitioners who worked with AIDS patients or in HIV/AIDS research, and papers and ephemera collected by journalists and social scientists. Materials from several AHP collections are displayed in the exhibit, with additional materials in the Special Collections Reading room available to be viewed by appointment. The AIDS History Project exhibit will be on display until April 2014.

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