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Mon Jun 10, 2019, 12:27 AM

A father comforts his son on his deathbed. The photo that changed the face of AIDS. 1989

This picture is widely considered the photo that changed the face of AIDS. It showed AIDS victims as humans and people with families. The biggest opponents of doing anything about AIDS, anything at all, were conservatives trumpeting family values. This picture showed that HIV has everything to do with family values and to have family values you have to value families.

In November 1990 LIFE magazine published a photograph of a young man named David Kirby — his body wasted by AIDS, his gaze locked on something beyond this world — surrounded by anguished family members as he took his last breaths. The haunting image of Kirby on his death-bed, taken by a journalism student named Therese Frare, quickly became the one photograph most powerfully identified with the HIV/AIDS epidemic that, by then, had seen millions of people infected (many of them unknowingly) around the globe.

David Kirby was born and raised in a small town in Ohio. A gay activist in the 1980s, he learned in the late 1980s — while he was living in California and estranged from his family — that he had contracted HIV. He got in touch with his parents and asked if he could come home; he wanted, he said, to die with his family around him. The Kirbys welcomed their son back.

The photographer Therese Frare recalls:

“On the day David died, I was visiting Peta (one of the David’s caretaker in Pater Noster House). Some of the staff came in to get Peta so he could be with David, and he took me with him. I stayed outside David’s room, minding my own business, when David’s mom came out and told me that the family wanted me to photograph people saying their final goodbyes. I went in and stood quietly in the corner, barely moving, watching and photographing the scene. Afterwards I knew, I absolutely knew, that something truly incredible had unfolded in that room, right in front of me.




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Reply A father comforts his son on his deathbed. The photo that changed the face of AIDS. 1989 (Original post)
Behind the Aegis Jun 2019 OP
MLAA Jun 2019 #1
CaliforniaPeggy Jun 2019 #2
Skittles Jun 2019 #3
hlthe2b Jun 2019 #4
riversedge Jun 2019 #5
MuseRider Jun 2019 #6
SCantiGOP Jun 2019 #7
Mickju Jun 2019 #8
progressoid Jun 2019 #9
TygrBright Jun 2019 #10

Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 12:44 AM

1. I don't have words for this photograph. I guess I don't need them this picture is so powerful.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 12:50 AM

2. This is truly heartbreaking, seeing this family face the loss of their son and nephew.

I had not seen this photo before. Thank you, BtA, for posting it.

The expression on the father's face breaks my heart.

How good that the son was able to die with his family around him, loving him, and accepting him.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 01:09 AM

3. I knew exactly what picture it was

it evokes the same feeling in me as when I first saw it.....this was back when even medical people would shun AIDS patients

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 06:12 AM

4. Incredibly moving...

That photo would be a "Rorschach test" for me. Those not moved by it are those I want nothing to do with.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 08:33 AM

5. Very powerful picture.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 08:54 AM

6. This is a sock in the gut this morning.

I do not remember this picture but the moment I saw it, wow. He looks very much like my brother and then that leads to very much like my brother as he died. I would hope this picture breaks people up, it should. Boy is this hard to see. RIP David. I am so happy you had your family with you with their love surrounding you. You were/are important.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 11:16 AM

7. I remember this picture well

But another group of photos had, in my opinion, a much bigger impact on society. Life magazine ran a feature with, as I recall, about 200+ pictures over 8-9 pages of everyone who had died of AIDS the month before. Preachers were still calling it a righteous judgment from god, and the general public largley viewed this as just a gay man’s disease that was a result of bad choices.
The Life pictures included a lot of effiminate men that could reinforce the bigots’ perceptions, but also included were dozens of picture of babies and infants who were born with the disease and lived less than a year or two; several nuns and people in medical garb who had contracted the virus caring for the sick; and a cross section of typical Americans, all of whom had gotten a death sentence from a blood transfusion.
Life was widely read at the time, and was in every waiting room you would go to. I think this visual representation went a long way towards changing the attitudes of even the generally homophobic public of the Reagan Era.
One particularly nasty woman who lived next door (and had harassed me for my liberal bumper stickers over the years) contended that all the gays (of course perverts was her preferred term) would soon die off and that would be the last we’d see of homosexuality. My Mother told me that she had seen her visibly shaken by the photo spread and its depiction of how this supposed “judgment from a merciful god” was killing people without regard for their personal behavior.
When I attended church with my Mom over Christmas and heard the strict and very conservative priest include those affected by “this terrible plague never before seen”
in his prayer, I knew that attitudes were changing.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 05:16 PM

8. I remember this photo.

It made me cry again just like it did at the time.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 11:25 PM

9. A student of my father's did the same thing.

Suffering from Aids and came home to die with his family. Dad visited him regularly until the end. So sad.


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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Wed Jun 12, 2019, 09:24 PM

10. I remember. I remember it all. I will never forget. n/t

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