Current Press on the Up Against the Wall Exhibition and Book: 



A number of other institutions hold AIDS Education posters in their collections and have made them available online. They include:



Up Against the Wall: Art, Activism, and the AIDS Poster is the first major exhibition devoted to the University of Rochester’s vast collection of HIV/AIDS-related posters. The exhibition features 165 of the most visually arresting and thought-provoking posters from the over 8000 posters from 130 countries assembled by collector, physician, and medical historian Dr. Edward C. Atwater. Dr. Atwater generously donated the entire collection, which also includes a broad range of AIDS-related ephemera, to the University’s River Campus Libraries’ Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation beginning in 2007. Today it comprises one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. Both the collection and the exhibition illustrate the wide range of communication strategies used to educate and inform people about this devastating global epidemic, underscoring how beauty and creativity have grown out of the tragedy and destruction of this deadly virus.

The messages conveyed by the posters are both visual and textual; through a variety of creative expressions they serve to inspire people to protect themselves, protect others, and to change their own behaviors. The posters in the exhibition span from 1982 to the present and show how social, religious, civic, activist, medical, and philanthropic organizations have addressed the complex, controversial, and often contested terrain of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic within the public realm. A variety of audiences, cultural norms, and specific behaviors are reflected in the many messages and methods used to share information to prevent HIV/AIDS.

With their international scope and myriad visual languages—from simple hand drawings to slick advertising graphics—the posters in this exhibition demonstrate the urgent need to inform individuals and communities around the world about the threat of HIV/AIDS. In its entirety, the Atwater Collection at the University of Rochester highlights how public health posters specific to HIV/AIDS represent one of the most significant, prolific, and creative chapters in the more than 150-year history of poster art.

The AIDS Education Poster Collection, housed in the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation, is one of the world’s largest single collections of visual resources related to the disease.

  • A companion exhibition will be on view at RIT University Gallery, March 14–April 8, 2022.

  • Past exhibitions:
    January 26 to May 21, 2012, Rush Rhees Library: Over the last 30 HIV/AIDS has spread unevenly across the globe. In the process it has altered bonds of intimacy, scientific knowledge, and diverse beliefs about morality and life. Constellations of imagery from awareness campaigns form alongside global networks of transmission and treatment. Drawing from the Atwater Collection of AIDS educational posters, Picturing AIDS and Its Publics shows the changing look of AIDS. The posters communicate diverse ideologies and visual strategies, showing how various groups around the world conceive of the virus.The exhibit has been curated by Berin Golonu and Alexander Brier Marr and is mounted in conjunction with the Humanities Project, "Looking at AIDS 30 Years On."

  • The Massachusetts College of Art and Design has an online exhibit "Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters"

  • The Brooklyn Museum: Graphic Alert: AIDS Posters from the Collection of Dr. Edward C. Atwater (October 16, 1997 - February 8, 1998)

These pages will continue to grow and be added to as new materials and information comes our way.  Please let us know if you have suggestions for other additions to these resources.