Memories of an Epidemic

Part 1: Images of Aids and the media

Images of Aids and the media: An epidemic foretold

The Aids epidemic did not come by surprise in Brazil. Following the international scenario, it was widely announced by the press, even before the notification of the first cases in the country. Since 1981, the disease has been introduced and made known by the media, generating an epidemic of social, cultural, economic and political reactions, progressively becoming part of everyday life. This phenomenon was called by Herbert Daniel and Richard Parker as the "Third Epidemic".

Faced with this epidemic of information and stigma, since 1983, responses began to emerge form the Brazilian homosexual movement anda other civil society organizations, articulated with the press, academia and the public services. The alternative press and the bulletins of organized groups played an essential role as a source of reliable information, in exchanging experiences and in producing other images for Aids.

After four decades of epidemic, images of Aids in the media are plural and contrasting. As we see lingering stigmas from the early years, refreshed by ner conservative wares, we find the debate of the combination prevention and emerging imagens of positive pride.

The exposure of discrimination and the dispute of representations and narratives is part of the leaning process of the response to AIDS. Living memories are ways for us not to waste these experiences to better face current challenges, especially in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Matheus Emílio Pereira da Silva and Remom Matheus Bortolozzi

Peste Gay (2020-06) by Bruno Oliveira e Uno VulpoMuseu da Diversidade Sexual

Epidemic of the "Pink Plague"

Aids was heralded by the press as the "Gay Cancer" or "Gay Plague", even with evidences showing that it was not a gay-only disease. 

This conception of the disease, whith associated homosexualith with promiscuity, still permeates the popular imagination today.

Aids a "Peste Gay" (2020-06) by Bruno Oliveira e Uno VulpoMuseu da Diversidade Sexual

Markito: a primeira cara do “Câncer Gay” (2021-06) by Bruno O. e Uno VulpoMuseu da Diversidade Sexual

Markito: the first face of "Gay Plague"

Marcus Vinícius Resende Gonçalves, better known as Markito, was a famous stylist, icon in the 1970s. 

Even with this important legacy for Brazilian fashion, his memory remains as the openly homosexual first public figure to be victimized by AIDS in 1983.

Travestis: Elas não têm medo da Peste Gay (2021-06) by Bruno O. e Uno VulpoMuseu da Diversidade Sexual

Travestis: They Aren't Afraid of the "Gay Plague"

One of the first figures that the media sought to ask if she has the disease was Roberta Close, an iconic muse of travestis in the country. 

Prejudice against travestis in relation to AIDS was not only linked to gender identity, but also because they were associated with prostitution.

Bissexuais: o perigo da ponte entre a homossexualidade e a heterossexualidade (2020-06) by Bruno O. e Uno VulpoMuseu da Diversidade Sexual

The bridge between homosexuality and heterosexuality

Bisexual people suffered specific prejudices with the outbreak of the epidemic, being identified as the bridges to AIDS. 

The disease was seen in the popular imagination as exclusively gay and bisexual people would be the transmitters to straight people. 

O amor entre mulheres (2021-06) by Bruno O. e Uno Vulpo and Bruno O. e Uno VulpoMuseu da Diversidade Sexual

Love between women

Even with a non-significant number of HIV infections among lesbians, prejudiced speeches and speculations about sexual exclusivity circulated in the media. 

The production on sexual health of this group remained scarced, marginalized and neglected.

Temporada de Caça (2020-06) by Bruno Oliveira e Uno VulpoMuseu da Diversidade Sexual

Hunting season

The AIDS panic has intensified a climate of hatred and incitement to violence and the organization of neo-Nazi groups. 

This period became emblematic in figures such as the Maniaco do Trianon and in episodes such as the brutal murder of the theater directos Luiz Antônio Martinez.

Movie scene of Hunting season by Rita Moreira

Celebridades dão cara a Aids (2021-06) by Bruno O. e Uno Vulpo and Bruno O. e Uno VulpoMuseu da Diversidade Sexual

Celebrity faces of AIDS

With the death of actor Rock Hudson in 1985, the media began to speculate on the sexuality of victims of the disease. 

Progressively, AIDS gained new faces from celebrities who promoted public debates about sexuality and discrimination. 

Cazuza mostra tua cara (2020-06) by Bruno O. e Uno VulpoMuseu da Diversidade Sexual

Cazuza shows your face

In Brazil, the most emblematic figure associated with AIDS was the singer and composer Agenor de Miranda Araújo Neto, better known as Cazuza.

He was on the cover of several publications and made his fight against AIDS public, being a reference of resistance that marked generations.

The 1989 cover of Veja magazine, printed by Cazuza, is a record that remains today in the collective memory of media sensationalism and disrespect for health and life. The publication decrees the artist's public death.

Estigma de “grupos de risco”: contagiosos, perigosos e marginais (2021-06) by Bruno O. e Uno VulpoMuseu da Diversidade Sexual

Stigma of “risk groups”: contagious, dangerous and marginal

Risk epidemiology translated into everyday life has transformed groups and communities into synonymous with the virus itself. 

Their confrontation generated a moral fight against “risk groups”: in addition to homosexuals, travestis and bisexuals, prostitutes, drug users, prisoner and black people. 

As “vítimas” da aids: O perigo é para todos (2021-06) by Bruno O. e Uno VulpoMuseu da Diversidade Sexual

The “victims” of AIDS: The danger is for everyone

With the expansion of the epidemic, AIDS took on new faces that did not fit into “risk groups”. 

In addition to hemophiliacs, other groups came to represent AIDS “victims”: straight cisgender women, straight couples and children. 

Informe (2021-06) by Bruno Oliveira e Uno VulpoMuseu da Diversidade Sexual

A community primer

In 1983, the group Outra Coisa was a pioneer in the production of informative material made by homossexuals for homosexuals.

The booklet was developed in conjunction with academia and public service, with Dra. Valéria Petri and Dr. Paulo Roberto Teixeira. 

Boletins do movimento homossexual (2020-06) by Bruno Oliveira e Uno VulpoMuseu da Diversidade Sexual

Alternative Images: Homosexual and AIDS's NGO bulletins

The alternative press produced by homosexual groups and NGOs/AIDS, was essential for accessing reliable information about the epidemic and fostered debates within the gay, lesbian, black, travestis and people living with HIV/AIDS communities.

Even before the notification of the first cases in Brazil, the Gay Group of Bahia (GGB), in 1982, published the text “The Pink Plague kills gays” with information about the epidemic in the United States, explaining the symptoms associated with the disease.

Imagens eróticas e Aids: a pornografia homossexual (2021-06) by Bruno O. e Uno VulpoMuseu da Diversidade Sexual

Erotic images and AIDS: homosexual pornography

Another important space for debate and the creation of other AIDS images was the Brazilian pornographic production. 

In 1982, Rose Magazine and the Homo Pleiguei newspaper brought, with irony and throwing shade, information and news about a disease that was affecting homosexuals in the United States.

Uma nova imprensa alternativa: influenciadoras e imagens positivas na internet (2021-06) by Bruno O. e Uno VulpoMuseu da Diversidade Sexual

Four Decades of AIDS Images

Aids images have diversified with new possibilities for living with HIV, with access to antiretrovirals, biomedical technologies and combination prevention and positive pride gaining greater visibility. 

At the same time, discriminatory discourses were updated. 

A new alternative press on the internet

Today, digital influencers use the networks to share their experiences with HIV, to discuss prevention, denounce the persistence of the epidemic and alert to new challenges in the current COVID-19 pandemic.


“Memories of an Epidemic”: Images of AIDS and the Media





Assistant Secretary

Creative Economy Coordinator

Amigos da Arte
Social Organization of Culture

General Director

Financial Administrative Director

Art and Culture Director


Franco Reinaudo

Ellen Nicolau, Gabriela Augusta da Silva Oliveira, Leonardo Stephens Domingues and Rodrigo Alcântara da Silva

Leonardo Arouca

Marisis Pacheco

Tatto Oliveira

Credits: Story

Matheus Emílio Pereira da Silva e Remom Matheus Bortolozzi

Bruno O. e Uno Vulpo

Acervo Bajubá e APOLGBT-SP

Associação Brasileira Interdisciplinar de AIDS (ABIA), Arquivo Edgard Leurenroth (AEL), Alberto Alexandre Schmitz II, Amanda Marques, André Mota, Andrea Paula Ferreira, Casa 1, CEDOC Luiz Mott, Eduardo Luiz Barbosa, Grupo de Incentivo à Vida - GIV, Grupo Pela Vidda RJ, Grupo Pela Vidda SP, Liandro Lindner, Marcos Tolentino, Ricardo Tomio Akiyama, Thais Azevedo, Vera Paiva.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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