Visual AIDS Uses Art to Heal, Support and Advocate

Written by | Art & Design

One organization’s powerful mission inspires people to encounter AIDS through art.

By Scott A. Kramer, LCSW-R

Two Mikes and Green Blue Chair

Two Mikes and Green Chair Blue Shadow by Shungaboy, an artist who works with Visual AIDS.

I recently attended an art show called Living Positive & Long Term Surviving: An Artist Perspective. It showcased the works of four unique artists who shared their perspectives on creating and living through 30 years of AIDS, while many of their works were projected onto a large screen. After being blown away by the evening, I had to find out more about the organization that put it together: Visual AIDS.

Two Mikes

Two Mikes by Shungaboy

Visual AIDS utilizes art to fight AIDS by provoking dialogue, supporting HIV-positive artists, and preserving the legacy of the epidemic. Since its inception in 1988, Visual AIDS has a proud tradition of curating shows that are emotional, thoughtful and poignant. They vary, with some featuring readings, while others focus on paintings, sculpture or other media. One such upcoming exhibit is Party Out of Bounds: Nightlife as Activism Since 1980. It will run at New York City’s La Mama Galleria ( from September 18 through October 11 and will explore the intersection of nightlife, community, and AIDS activism through photography.

Colorful Hairy Boxer

Colorful Hairy Boxer by Shungaboy

Rugger Man Broad Back

Rugger Man Broad Back by Shungaboy

Perhaps Visual AIDS’ most groundbreaking efforts have been the Red Ribbon Project and A Day Without Art. Though today the red ribbon is almost universally acknowledged as the way to show support for those living with AIDS, it originated in 1994 when a group of artists came together as part of the Visual AIDS Artists’ Caucus and created it. A Day Without Art began on the second Annual World AIDS Day in 1989 — in response to the fact that the epidemic was still worsening. More than 800 arts organizations, museum and galleries observed the day by covering their artwork and putting information about AIDS in its place.

Today, Visual AIDS continues its work with art and artists to challenge the way audiences think about HIV and AIDS. To learn more about their important legacy, ongoing projects and upcoming showcases, visit them online at

Masculine Kiss

Masculine Kiss by Shungaboy

Last modified: July 23, 2019