Volunteers and the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Sydney 1980s-1990s
Art, Outreach & Safe Sex
While the Federal government’s 1987 Grim Reaper campaign was criticised by many for failing to provide clear and specific information about HIV and AIDS, the gay community produced information that dealt honestly and openly about sex and sexuality.
ACON’s ‘Safe Sex Sluts’ volunteered at all major gay events for more than two decades, distributing safe sex packs and information. By 2012, they had given away nearly 1 million condoms and lube packets.
Providing accurate and impactful information about HIV and AIDS was a critical part of Sydney’s response. In this way, the gay community excelled. Art and outreach that was fun and sexy in its promotion of harm minimisation and safe sex was effective. It also reduced stigma.
Brilliant artist David McDiarmid designed much of the material that was used for outreach and to promote safe sex. ACON’s records note that: “In 1992, ACON commissioned HIV McDiarmid to present HIV / AIDS in a way that was both pro-gay and pro-sex.” He designed five posters, two of which are featured above. Image reproduced with the permission of ACON (formerly AIDS Council of NSW).