Forty years of campaigning for equal access to life-saving medicines


A look back at the early days of AIDS activism highlights stark parallels with the global response to COVID-19.

Previously unseen images from the early 1990s of AIDS activists campaigning for life-saving medicines show that, with slogans such as “Dead from drug profiteers” and “AIDS $ now”, the AIDS activists of yesterday mirror today’s activists in their demand for equal access to COVID-19 vaccines.

However, the photos also highlight how, 40 years after the discovery of the first AIDS cases, the world is repeating the same mistakes in its response to COVID-19, as inequalities continue to be the driving force of infections and deaths.

The photos, taken by French photographer Elizabeth Carecchio, show people marching for HIV treatment at a demonstration in May 1990 at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, DC, United States of America. They are a reminder of the central role played by activists over the years, including today as they continue to advocate for fairer access to treatment and vaccines. In short, they are campaigning for the world to put people before profits, a central call of the People’s Vaccine for COVID-19, which UNAIDS is proud to be part of.

Photos: Elizabeth Carecchio

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