Women and AIDS

This exhibit explores the work of women and AIDS activists, who were active in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This exhibit traces the shift from a "gay plague" to the lived sense that "women get AIDS too." The exhibit features ephemera related to women and AIDS.

Women get AIDS too

Women AIDS activists

Toronto-based AIDS activist Darien Taylor reflected on her work with the AIDS ACTION NOW! women's committee and on one International Women's Day event: 

I have a very vivid memory of one year at Ryerson and the t-shirts said, “Women Get AIDS…” no, it was one of those ones where the t-shirt read badly because of the way that it was laid out. So, it said, “Women. Get AIDS. Get Active.” What it was meant to say was, “Women Get AIDS. Get Active,” but it was like, “Women, get AIDS and then get active.” [laughter] … It was not exactly a Freudian slip, but it was probably more or less what I was thinking – wouldn’t it be great if more women got AIDS? That would really make them get active in the movement. [laughter]

With banners, t-shirts, pamphlets and posters, women began to write themselves into the AIDS movement. Women gave a face and a name to women's issues. QuotingToronto-based AIDS activist Julia Barnett:

There was a strong core of AAN! women who had a strong voice in the organization and played a leadership role. … Did we have a major impact on women? I think we really did give a face and a name to a lot of the issues that women were facing when testing positive or even being put on the agenda to get tested. Naming the fact that women do get HIV and they’re all kinds of women who get it. 

Barnett described how women began to give a face and a name to women's issues, making themselves visible materially. To read more about her experience and the experiences of other women's AIDS activists, check out the AAHP interviews below. 

Jane Allen - AAHP interview 

Julia Barnett - AAHP interview 

Renee du Plessis - AAHP interview 

Janis Kaleta - AAHP interview 

Anita Martinez - AAHP interview 

Mary Petty - AAHP interview 

Darien Taylor - AAHP interview 


Women and AIDS