ONE Archives’ exhibit ‘It’s Not Over’ about AIDS activism, HIV pandemic

ONE Achives

This poster is part of the “It’s Not Over” exhibit from the ONE Archives Foundation that spotlights AIDS activism from the 1980s and 1990s. Photo: ONE Archives at the USC Libraries.

WEST HOLLYWOOD — The ONE Archives Foundation exhibit “It’s Not Over” spotlights voices of AIDS activists and community organizers from the mid 1980s to the late 1990s in a collection of posters and other ephemera.

“It’s Not Over” also showcases the longtime struggle against HIV discrimination.

‘It’s Not Over’

The exhibit items were selected from the vast collection of LGBTQ material at the ONE Archives at the USC Libraries, which also is know as the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives.

“Political graphics from early AIDS activism exemplify boldness, resilience, and compassion,” Umi Hsu, a co-curator of the exhibit and director of content at the ONE Archives Foundation, said in a statement. “Each poster is a provocation. Each flyer is a story. Each picket sign is an embodiment of how people came together to fight for dignity and justice.”

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The pop-up exhibit will open Tuesday to coincide with World AIDS Day and close December 31. It will be on display at 8954 Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.

Information about the exhibit also will be on view along San Vicente Boulevard, between Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue.

A digital version of the exhibit also will be online Tuesday.

HIV pandemic is not over

World AIDS Day was first observed by the World Health Organization in 1988.

In the style of Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s protest art messaging, “War Is Over! (If You Want It),” this public art exhibit reminds audiences that the HIV-AIDS epidemic is not over, according to the exhibit description.

Almost 40 million people around the world live with HIV, which disproportionately affects the Black community, according to a July 2020 data from UNAIDS.

For example, 42% of new HIV cases in the United States have occurred within the Black community, which only makes up 13% of the national population, according to 2018 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Exhibit details

The exhibit’s 29 images include pamphlet graphics by Keith Haring, picket signs from historic protests in Los Angeles and New York, flyers for the first ACT UP-LA meeting in 1987 and Gay Men of African Descent, safer sex campaign posters featuring men and women of color, World AIDS Day and Day Without Art posters.

With messages such as “HIV Discrimination Kills,” “It’s Not Over” recalls the early periods of organizing and resistance that also serve to galvanize contemporary audiences, according to the exhibit description.

“ ‘It’s Not Over’ literally reminds us that HIV and AIDS are still very much with us,” said Neal Baer, a board member with the ONE Archives Foundation. “The difference between 30 years ago and now?  We can treat and prevent HIV and yet too many individuals are still thwarted by stigma and lack of access to treatment.  These posters beckon us to fight for health care for all.”

Keith Haring

Artist Keith Haring designed this graphic in 1986 related to California’s Proposition 64. Proponents of the ballot initiative argued that the measure would merely return AIDS to the list of communicable diseases under the public health laws. Opponents characterized it as an effort to force HIV-positive individuals out of their jobs and into quarantine. The measure was soundly defeated by voters. Photo: ONE Archives at the USC Libraries.

ONE Archives Foundation

The ONE Archives Foundation also organized an HIV exhibit in 2018. 

Lost & Found: Safer Sex Activism” spotlighted 30 years of safer-sex and harm-reduction activism in the fight against HIV and AIDS. It showed how activists, during the 1980s and 1990s when the AIDS epidemic reached crisis proportions, attempted to educate the public about the disease and to break the perceptions that demonized gay men and intravenous drug users and blamed them for AIDS.

Founded in 1952, the ONE Archives Foundation is the oldest active LGBTQ organization in the United States, and is dedicated to telling stories and history of all LGBTQ people and their culture.

ONE Archives Foundation promotes the ONE Archives at the USC Libraries — the largest repository of LGBTQ materials in the world — and provides free innovative educational initiatives, public exhibitions and community programs.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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