Obtaining safe sex information during the 1980s was not always easy. Although Michael Callen and Richard Berkowitz, two gay men living with AIDS in New York City, pioneered safer sex practices in their 1983 pamphlet, How to Have Sex in an Epidemic, medical professionals were slow to follow suit and hampered by ideological interference from the government. Instead, the queer community galvanized to fill the void.
“Lost & Found: Safer Sex Activism,” an exhibit at the newly renovated ONE Gallery in West Hollywood (running through June 24), surveys 30 years of safer-sex and harm-reduction activism, and includes materials like Gran Fury’s iconic 1989 ACT UP poster “Kissing Doesn’t Kill: Greed and Indifference Do,” as well as comics, brochures, videos, PSAs, and safer-sex and clean-needle kits.
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Although AIDS is no longer seen as the automatic death sentence that it once represented, the subtext of “Lost & Found” is to inspire fresh consideration of how the campaigns of the past might help define the challenges of the present. As a recent HIV outbreak in Milwaukee proves, we’re still dealing with a national emergency, and public education for young people, in particular, is severely lacking. Says Dr. Neal Baer, a consultant to the show’s curators, David Evans Frantz and Hannah Grossman, “This show puts the microscope on historical documents and contemporary efforts that illuminate an urgency that still exists.”
Art: Condom Resource Center safer sex poster, Keep a Rubber on Hand!, 1988