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arcHIV began with a viewing of the HIV-specific materials in the museum’s impressive archive, one of the largest collections on HIV in all of Germany. We first worked our way through the archive’s HIV-related newspaper clippings and organisational publications, among other sources, which had been helpfully catalogued years ago using the categories on the laminated pages. These groupings, and not just the materials included within them, are themselves reflections of ways of thinking from particular times, places and socio-political positions. As we began to look for traces of the absent, the folder Lesben [‘Lesbians’] jumped out because it was one of very few that was entirely empty. Rather than attempt to fill this void with materials from elsewhere, we first investigated where traces of lesbian involvement might be found in this same collection. In so doing, various ways in which lesbians – as a group or individuals – have implicated themselves, or became implicated, in the HIV epidemic began to emerge: e.g. their bodies were put under the microscope by medical researchers, they raised funds and provided care for persons living with HIV, they were seen as competition in the distribution of public funding, and they were alternatively viewed as a group at risk or not at all at risk of contracting the virus. Beginning with Allgemein [‘General’] and ending with the folder Lesben [‘Lesbians’], we present here, chronologically, selected examples of these materials under the original folders in which they were stored. We hence attempt to bring part of the archive into the museum for you to explore and experience.

Du Darfst – Ein Film über Lesben, HIV und Moral

In the folder Österreich [‘Austria’], we came across a conference program from Vienna advertising a screening of a “safer sex video for lesbians” named Du Darfst – Ein Film über Lesben, HIV und Moral [‘You May. A Film about Lesbians, HIV and Morals.’]. The film’s title refers to a commercial from the time advertising a low-fat food product, and hence what should not be eaten in order to lose weight. The safer sex video had been produced in 1991 by S.A.F.E. (Sapphos Allerotische Film Edition) in Germany, but it was not in the archive of the museum, nor was it in other archives we searched in Berlin or in Vienna. Through known activists from the time, we were then directed to bildwechsel, an archive and organisation for “women, and their communities, who are involved in media, culture and art,” where the video had indeed been stored. The archivist directed us back to a member of the S.A.F.E. collective based in Berlin, Manuela Kay, who agreed to our screening excerpts of the film here, provided us with the laminated film descriptions in English and German, and also donated a copy of the film to the museum’s archive.


When it first emerged, AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) – previously known under the homophobic label ‘Gay-Related Immune Disease’ – was famously thought to impact groups of persons who were problematically known as the 4 H’s: “homosexuals, heroin users, hemophiliacs, and Haitians.” This labeling was first applied in policy documents of the United States, but was also used at times in Europe, such as in a 1983 recommendation on blood donation restrictions by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers. Analysing the social consequences of these racist, homophobic and narco-phobic categories, Paul Farmer has described HIV an ‘epidemic of discrimination’ – building on Paula Treichler’s earlier labeling of it as an ‘epidemic of signification.’ Clear is that the categories of analysis used by medical and public health workers have had profound social and political implications. The specificities of the German context, however, are often lost in a historical focus on the 4 H’s. Here we present some of the earliest epidemiological publications of the spreading virus during the first ten years of the epidemic. We see here, similarly, problematic terms, such as the reductive and racist application of the term Afrikaner [‘Africans’]. Over time, new and allegedly more precise terms emerge, even when they were just further extensions of the same prejudiced labeling, such as with Homosexuelle Fixer [‘Homosexual Junkies’] or Heterosexuelle Partner von Risikogruppen [‘Heterosexual Partners of Risk Groups’]. In addition to thinking about the politics of these categories, we invite you to consider which groups are altogether excluded from them, and hence from recognition as persons worthy of accounting and protection?


Tweets Jürgen Baldiga

Excerpts from the diaries Jürgen Baldiga (1959 – 1993), based on TB • JÜRGEN BALDIGA, curated by Aron Neubert.
Selection of tweets for the exhibition by Eugen Januschke.
be a hero
shit on the ceiling
don’t forget, though
to water the plants

jens h. is dead
alf is dead as well
can this please

melitta is together with polette
and pepsi again.
Is there a tunten heaven?

I have aids and lost
somehow the desire
again and again
to rear up to struggle.
it is futile anyway. The struggle
is lost. also, I will
die. of aids.

will get a
port and then
artificial feeding.
yesterday was a horror.
just vomiting. just fever.
nothing worked.

again at AVK [August-Viktoria-Krankenhaus, a prominent HIV/AIDS hospital]. for the port.
will treat first my
pneumonia, though.
tomorrow morning a bronchoscopy
as well as gastroscopy.
inserting medical tubes everywhere.

my sun u. love this
man, more than anything. how he
works his butt off for me.
he knows what’s up, says
himself terminal stage.
still cracks me up,
horses around with me, so that I can
forget aids for a few moments.

what can I do
hoping for a miracle
of medicine
u. bathed me today
can’t do it
on my own anymore
all the time I just feel
cried today
in the arms of u.

tomorrow I will be released
from AVK. the infusions
are getting on my nerves.
I have to come to terms with it.
will continue at home anyway.
on my right eye I see
partially just blurry.
I can shit again.
laughing works too.
loving u. is wonderful.

with wheelchair at SchwuZ yesterday.
the schwuztunten [drag queens at Berlin’s oldest gay club SchwuZ]
prepared a table for me
with a big armchair and everyone
was super nice to me.
asked me how much I weigh.
55 kg. As much as he is overweight.
had a good night.

@aronneubert photographs
november 1993 – at home in bed

it is nice to have friends
who care.
v. lays down flowers at the door step.
b. sleeps here when u. can’t.
I am in a better mood.
Nevertheless, I can barely suffer
this disease anymore.
I am often lonely with my thoughts.

u. tested negative.
what a joy.
I screamed on the telephone.
I feel so moved.
he will live
and continue to be
a happy soul.

I have decided not
to live anymore. I am
weary of the torment, even if it is difficult,
but it just can’t go on
like that.



Das Archiv


Aron Neubert: Here is Napoleon.

Axel Wippermann: Exactly.

Axel: Here are also photos from somewhere Jürgen…

Aron: Yes, that’s why, we had them at some point…

Axel: Requests come every now and again about them, right?

Axel: “Do you have photos by Jürgen Baldiga?”

Axel: There are often requests, that someone is researching about Jürgen, or else especially about Napoleon Seyfahrt, and then we, as volunteers or staff members, are sent out to look for the photos. There are several possible locations where they may be. Either in the Baldiga collection, or else by keyword, or else through some totally different connection.

Aron: There is a photo of Jürgen.

Axel: Yes, it is /

Aron: but not something / Those are photos that Jürgen took. This one at least…

Axel: Exactly.

Aron: And both of these. This is a picture of Ronaldo Hopp.

Axel: Yes, you are also in it.

Aron: Jürgen.

Axel: This is Jürgen and this is Aaron.

Aron: I think this is a huge…

Axel: This hung recently here in the museum.

Aron: Really? Okay. That is really huge, right?

Axel: No, this isn’t here. I think Ronaldo still has that in his private collection.

Axel: So there is a series. Maybe Aaron should say something more about that in a bit, about the dishes that Jürgen made with portraits of his friends. And one – I think we have two of them – one is slightly damaged. A box is currently being made for it – because it broke – so you can take it in your hands, and that is for / Around when was that?

Aron: That was in an exhibition in 1991 at the Bellevue Gallery in Berlin. Jürgen made the dishes with photos for it. They are really original photos that were then somehow attached to the dishes and then fixed and sealed with another layer.

Axel: That is really great for 1991. Today we could digitally /

Aron: I don’t think it’s done anymore.

Axel: …order and buy porcelain everywhere, but at that time it was really something very, very unique, and they have all been hand-signed by him. The year is there too, ´91.

Aron: Exactly.

Axel: The cabinet of graphics is not yet fully sorted – that’s a place where we also put new arrivals now. Interesting is that, after the move, the archive was for the first time really / well all the links were made there for the first time. But anyway, we regularly still find things from Jürgen in lots of different places, and that is really the goal – to bring everything together into a single place. So, we recently got huge format prints in cardboard tubes. They were lying around somewhere in the back and now, one at a time, everything is in a single place again.

Interviewer: When did you give this to the Schwules Museum?

Aron: Good question, that was …

Axel: I also need to think.

Aron: After the, in the old Schwules Museum, early 2000, maybe ten years ago or so, it went to the Schwules Museum. First it was stored and tucked away at the old Schwules Museum on Mehringdamm, and Axel is actually the godsend, who arrived. All of the materials there from Jürgen were assessed and meticulously sorted and archived and categorised by him, and that all happened in the last three years. He said back then, “I need to have had every singly image in my hands to really know the whole estate, and to know what it’s actually about / what you have to deal with,” and then I thought, okay, so I know all of the images and I can answer any questions that come – I think we are a good team for that.

Axel: That’s true. Whenever I sit down and look at different portraits, and I don’t quite know something for sure, he very quickly understands the relationships because he was part of his life. This is also so important in this work, it’s rarely true elsewhere: If you sit somewhere as a photo historian and try to sort out someone’s estate, you typically have to do an enormous amount of research to be able to identify people, and this is really great – it’s basically all part of his life, what we have displayed in front of us.

Aron: This is the book of poems for Jürgen, which was published in Maldoror FlugSchriften, as it was called.

Axel: “Images of Men Number 1”

Axel: Exactly.

Axel: Jürgen, Jürgen.

Aron: There really are a lot of things by him.

Axel: Yes, exactly. The sexy guy from the poster!

Aron: “Images of Men” it was called, number one. Sometimes these things from the archive surface, and Mario, who does not want to be filmed, always brings those kinds of things to our attention – that’s how the newspaper arrived with us –; things from the early eighties in West Berlin. Anyway, and Jürgen wrote poems and made collages in the beginning, and that’s the booklet. But before, we had them here too, but they’re in a cabinet because there are only those two copies and they are originals. He made a sort of fanzine, as it would be called today. They are also pretty amazing, also with texts from him, letters to his mother and that sort of crazy stuff, and with collages too, as I said.

Axel: Because having something like that in a photography archive is of course always very interesting, or very important, that one / and that also always speaks against digitalisation, where the originals are then destroyed because there was also once this kind of trend, “Let’s digitalise everything and then we can save space.” And things like that – well, firstly, a photo always has an aura, a materiality, and then especially with press photos, the back side is always important because, if you go to an exhibition, there is never or only very rarely / There are very good exhibitions where the backside is put on display, but for research, that is of course a very important source, the backside of a photo.

Aron: Here are the photos that were in the exhibition in Bethanien – framed, rather fantastic prints.

Axel: Yes, they can also be exhibited again like that.

Aron: Yes. And Axel pre-sorted things here.

Axel: This is the second category of order, when one says that this is the first, and that is the second, and the third, we’ll see in a minute. Here are all the self-portraits I found so far in a box, summarised. We can show them some time. And here are self-portraits up to a particular size, because not everything fits inside.

Aron: Show them to us.

Aron: Well, that was once a snapshot. Jürgen had – when was that, 1991 – bought a small camera. He had normally photographed with a large single-lens reflex camera, and then at some point in-between, he used a little Panasonic, and he also sometimes used colour film. That was Christmas 1992. Since you asked yesterday about 1993, what kind of a year it was, it started to become pretty intense at the end of ´92 – it was really Christmas, and Jürgen became quite ill. Exactly. Then there are somehow various / They are not sorted at the moment.

Axel: No, they are not at all sorted. That is just under the aspect “self-portrait.” They also weren’t in any series, but rather alone. It was probably also framed.

Aron: That was surely also in a kitsch frame.

Axel: It doesn’t say on the back. You can see a residue from the adhesive, so that was fixed somewhere, and that is a real Caravaggio citation.

Axel: These actually are the conditions in which we would like to store the images, so dust-tight, but without those plastic sheets. And this is the series that Aaron did on Jürgen.


Videoclip about the diversity of experiences and perspectives of people who have been active in HIV activism or still are, who were active in AIDS-self help, care, sex work, drug use , people with a history of migration and from the GDR.This video, together with the clip about mourning which can be seen in the section „Dying/Grief“ in this exhibition, convey the wide spectrum interviews in the Berlin AIDS Oral History Collection represent.
The Collection is a project by Schwules Museum Berlin and at the same time part of the European HIV/AIDS Archive, in which there can be found more interviews with a direct link to Berlin.
More information about the clip to Diversity can be found here.

BeV StroganoV: But if we go all the way back, my coming out as gay was at the end of the ‘70s already. My coming out as queen was in the early ’80s, and I always say: I had only just learned, being gay — how to kiss, how to have sex, where to stick things. And then the next year you are told: You’re not allowed to kiss anymore, you’re not allowed to stick anything anywhere anymore or you’ll die. Those things coming together, that can really confuse a young person. And at the same time coming out as a Tunte [queen], where you notice, first it’s just a laugh, and sometimes you do it and then you notice in society or on your way to the disco or something, oh, there really are difficulties that you didn’t know about before. In that sense it was a tough education you had to go through, and in SchwuZ, which is a gay club in Berlin — a very old institution — there were a lot of Tunten, and we then founded the Tunten ensemble Ladies Neid [Ladies’ Envy], in the summer of 1985, and of that I always say: I came of age in a large family, so, my life as a Tunte is, as it were, a, a very normal, completely new life. And when you grow up in a protective family, together with other Tunten, ehm, that helps a lot. That first show, which we did in August ’85, had, I believe, 35 queens — the show lasted 5 hours [laughs], and the occasion was a benefit for the newly-founded Berliner Aids-Hilfe [Berlin AIDS Service Organisation].Ute Hiller: The issue of trans and HIV is one on which, like the issue of lesbian women and HIV, we have hardly any data — this is only just starting. Only in the last two years, at conferences, I have seen that people are trying to create a European data set. The first workshops about that that I observed were around 2012, at HIV im Dialog [HIV in dialogue]. But even if there is a workshop about the issue now, it still feels like it’s the first time. Which, however, technically isn’t correct. And of course, to the extent that I’m aware, this is an issue in the trans community as well, but naturally there are similar problems. There are hardly any written informational materials. If there is something, it is generally aimed at trans women, and very rarely at trans men. That is, I believe, an issue which is now starting to become more prominent, and therefore also more visible. And furthermore, especially in the last few years, I feel that the issue of HIV and AIDS-Hilfe [AIDS Service Organisation] has even more strongly developed as an issue of human rights, and as an issue of poverty. So, discussions about the living conditions of people who have to live with limited financial recourses for a long time — who are in Germany illegally, and therefore end up in the support systems. And about the question: “How can we ensure that all who live in Berlin will actually have access to medication as part of HIV-related care?” That is just obvious in other countries. And for some reason we allow ourselves to say: Here someone is only allowed to have healthcare if they are insured.Birol Isik: So, besides the well-known, ehm, we also — we were also concerned with, the, ehm, reaching smaller organisations. We did reach those, ehm, through the Migrationsrat [Council on Migration] for example, ehm, which includes 80 organisations, no? So — as it were — the issue was introduced there and then, ehm, then the issue would be taken up in migrant communities and would be, ehm, would be disseminated in the neighbourhood organisations — like that. Ah, that’s where we, ehm, for example we would stuff vine leaves [laughs] and while doing that we would, ehm, speak about sex with housewives. [laughs] Yeah, and then also mention HIV and AIDS, you see? What happens when the men go out, things like that. So even in these informal, ehm, groups we tried, so — or we tried to reach them as well, you see? So, like that. Exactly like that.Laura Méritt: That did happen. I do remember somehow — some lesbians did ask: “But when you also work with men?” Along the lines of: We in the lesbian scene ‘don’t have HIV anyway’ [laughs]. In the scene, that was the general way of thinking, you see? When you stay fully safe, so only with lesbians, then you won’t get anything, right? So that was more where the fear came from: There were quite a few professional sex workers in our group who worked with men. That’s why we got together and said: “We want to offer this for women as well, so how are we going to do this?” That safer sex is possible was clear from the start, but for female customers the issue was: “If you work with men, then you aren’t real lesbians — you’re the ones who bring the disease to us.”  So, you had that as well. We would then point out again, that you could get safer sex materials everywhere. But they just wanted — they would say: “We can smell that a mile off, if you have any contact with men”, something like that. So yeah, it got pretty wild there at times.Astrid Leicht: Well, at the Berliner AIDS-Hilfe [Berlin AIDS Service Organisation], we were the volunteer group, ehm, or drugs — I don’t know what it was called anymore — Drogen-AG [Drug Working Group] or something, and, ehm, it was indeed the case that, ehm, the AIDS-Hilfe, so the, the, board and the management thought it was good — what we did. But nevertheless, to some extent, they didn’t want to have much to do with drug users. They were, as it were, the mischievous — the mischievous ones, and they felt it was important politically, ehm, because they were — as it were, collectively impacted by the infection. But it would be, ehm, it was debated, it would be better, ehm, when you, ehm — if you had your own association. If that wouldn’t be part of the Berliner AIDS-Hilfe, but, ehm, ‘separated out’, so to say.

BeV StroganoV: At the Tunten [queen’s] show we sung songs dressed as nurses who dealt with that — but more in a light-hearted kind of way. Ehm, many of the Ladies Neid Tunten were nurses. They of course had a very different type of contact with the issue. In the ’80s, a lot of nursing still was done by the German Red Cross or Christian nursing stations, and you would experience that sometimes the patients, who were ill at home and couldn’t defend themselves, would be told: “It’s your own fault” — or along the lines of, they’d have dearly wanted to put a cross over the bed and, ehm. Then friends of mine got together and said, in a situation where the whole of society says: “That’s just a gay disease.” — and then gay people should be cared for by those very straight people, in a conservative society — we needed a nursing station with gay nurses and a gay management for gay patients. And that’s where was born the Hilf-, Hivev-, H-I-V-E-V it’s called, which means HIV e.V. [HIV association]: Help, Information and Vermittlung [referral], and 80% of them were Tunten from my social circle. For them, because it’s an association, I always took the minutes, and we were all involved somehow.

Rainer Herrn: And ehm for gay people only relatively little was being done. And when something, then, as I said, the, the test strategy, and then that very problematic recommendations. That was, so to say, not oriented towards the minimal demand in terms of adjusting behaviours, towards the maximum demand. And this maximum demand consisted in the avoidance of oral and anal sex. So, when we read this prevention message today, ehm, how should I say, the message really is that gay men were — that promiscuity so to say was — was being vilified: fidelity is the best protection. So those were very, ehm, moralizing, ehm, recommendations, and very drastic recommendations, which ultimately were equivalent to the heterosexualisation of homosexuals. So, they would include everything they found disagreeable — the point was, as it were, under the guise of AIDS policy, eh ehm, to get rid of it all. So, with that I became engaged in the, in the AIDS context. And this work would accompany me into the ’90s. So, also during reunification, during the founding of the AIDS-Hilfe [Aids Service Organisation]. I still remember that I, I believe, that was in March nineteen hundred — I can’t say any more, whether that was ’89 or ’90, that I placed an ad in the Leipziger Volkszeitung [Leipzig People’s Newspaper] — I believe, I believe I even have it still, this ad — about the founding of the GDR AIDS-Hilfe. And that was, so to say, the transition, that we wanted to transfer the work that was being done in these gay groups into a structure of regional AIDS support groups. So, following the Federal Republican [West German] example. And, ehm, that is then — so in the unification process, which then happened very quickly — also only existed for a short time. And all the differences, as far as prevention was concerned, were then — it was seen as, that they disappeared within a few years — I can’t even say when that happened — the GDR AIDS-Hilfe — the BZgA [Federal Centre for Health Education] established that it was not prepared to finance these two AIDS Support Organisations as supra-regional organisations. And then the suggestion came, from the Pott house, that the GDR AIDS-Hilfe should become a department: the East Department of the Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe. And then two people who worked in the GDR AIDS-Hilfe were employed in this department, and within — I don’t remember anymore — after two years this department was abolished, with the idea that the prevention movements had become so similar, that a specific East Department was no longer needed. And that is how, so to say, the East’s specific approach towards prevention, or its approach as distinct from others, was made to disappear.

Carsten Schatz: The volunteer AIDS ‘landscape’ in the East was made possible through the Unification Treaty, and then specific things through Federal Model Financing. And when that finished in ’95, especially in Berlin, it was very hard for these structures. To somehow give these East Berlin projects access to — generally to funding, which they were already getting. So that is — actually just like in the entire unification process. Something new was created in the East. With a lot of enthusiasm and an incredible amount of blood sweat and tears, that had a lot of solidarity, encountered a landscape that was settled — that was there. And which was only somewhat interested in what was being introduced. And then, sadly, by the middle — end of the 90s, many projects that had arisen in the East were finished. So, there were essentially two: Pluspunkt, the project for those that were HIV-positive or those that were ill with AIDS, and there was the Prenzlberger AIDS Projekt, PAP, which mostly did prevention work for gay men. That was an interesting structure, I have to say, which was different from, from how it generally was in the West. Pretty much everything was done by the Berliner Aids-Hilfe [Berlin AIDS Service Organisation]. Or let’s say the Schwulenberatung [Gay Men’s Support Organisation]. And they tried to do everything at once. I thought it was nice that I, as someone who’s HIV positive — when I joined them — didn’t have to be involved with primary prevention issues, but that I could interact with others who were living with HIV, and we could work on our problems.

Jürgen Meggers: From the so-called ‘self-help pot’, as it was called then, right? So, my concern was to obtain secure funding — like we have now, and not from the self-help pot. Because a lot of self-help projects were already being funded through the self-help pot, like Hydra for example, female prostitution, which of course had to suffer cuts then, because there was a new project that got money then, you see? And then others, so drug-related projects, drug-related facilities. I did my training as an addiction therapist partially in the Anti-Drogen-Verein [Anti-Drug Association], ehm, so I did internships or something with them, which were also then, ehm, in the organising institution of Fixpunkt — they experienced all kinds of cuts then. And I wasn’t OK with that, that other projects should be cut because of the founding of the BAH [Berlin Aids Service Organisation]. But at the time, we weren’t, I believe, only very few people were aware of this, that it would get to that. Because I said, there isn’t any more money, that’s why other projects would experience cuts. That then led to the founding of LaBAS, the Regional Association of Berlin AIDS Self-Help Projects, in which all Aids-projects came together, because there was a perpetual conflict, ehm, between the different projects because of funding, right? Ehm, for example Mann-O-Meter and the Schwulenberatung [Gay Men’s Support Organisations] were, ehm, were all of a sudden only given money for AIDS-related activities. Other things were stopped. The Lesbenberatung [Lesbian Support Organisation] would hardly get any money all of a sudden because they, ehm, it was clear that lesbians weren’t that affected, if they didn’t infect themselves by other means. It was, it was horrible, it was a horrible situation, right? And then there were projects that probably weren’t well known at all, that wanted money, like the anthroposophical project, ehm, then children and AIDS, and, and, and…right? Like that.

BeV StroganoV: For example, with ACT UP there were die-ins in front of the health ministry — we showed them how many there are. And then we would circle all the lying bodies with chalk so that the next day, the health minister would have to walk over all these dead people. That’s impressive; it makes for a good image. But it’s also a method that is intended to shock, and that does shock.

Birol Isik: Up to the point where — when was my last protest? ehm, where I, ehm, body bags — AIDS, AIDS bags, that’s something you remember, right?

Yes, that was —

I laid down 20, ehm —

four years ago or something —

— body bags in front of the Health — the Federal Health Ministry, because I thought, ehm, for the AIDS, ehm, World AIDS Day, for the first time they avoided discussing the situation of ehm, mi- ehm, of queer migrants that are HIV positive. With the argument — of course not stated explicitly — that we don’t want to scare the right, the AfD [far-right party]. For the first time, that was — when was that? 2014, -15, something like that, in those years. Can you imagine? 2014, -15, just so that the AfD doesn’t grow further, we avoid mentioning the topic of HIV/AIDS and migration. From then on I said, so, then we’ll put body bags in front of the Health Ministry, right? Exactly. Federal Health —

Yes, can you tell me more about this protest? Because you started off at the Deutsche Aids-Hilfe [German AIDS Service Organisation], didn’t you? I was there too. [laughs]

You were there. [laughs] Well, no. It came from the — with the community we made the bags, [laughs] the body bags. And, ehm, went quickly, ehm, spontaneously, to the Health — to the Federal Health Ministry.

Astrid Leicht: So that was, ehm, let’s say, the trick, ehm, it was ‘State of the Art’, ehm, ehm, a drug user, or a junkie, had to be in a very bad state, and we shouldn’t be allowed to help them at all with anything. Rather they would first have to be lying in the gutter, because only then are they willing to become abstinent. And when they are abstinent, all problems are solved. That was the philosophy, and in accordance with that, all, ehm, ehm, help or, ehm, support that people had made possible for them to continue living, or so that they are doing a bit better, was seen as, ehm, strengthening as ehm, strengthening or prolonging the addiction. And accordingly, drug services would reject anything, categorically, that somehow went, ehm, in the direction of, ehm, what today is seen as harm reduction, ehm.

Ute Hiller: a very very strong movement at the moment is this “Support. Don’t Punish” movement, which we support as Aids-Hilfe. Their idea is: People who actively consume drugs need support and don’t need a society that impinges on them in a regimenting and criminalising way. They need particular kinds of resources and support so that they can engage with their own drug consumption in as self-determined a way as possible, also so that they can — if they want to — find ways out for themselves – but not to do that through criminalisation.

Laura Méritt: And then also, a little bit later, with Nutten und Nüttchen [Berlin sex worker organisation], we made this safer sex film for the European sex worker movement. What was it called again? ‘Europe, United Whorehouse’ I believe [laughs]. That’s a film in which we showed how to practice safer sex. ‘Don’t Panic’ was the name of another little film we made. That’s about, about sex worker politics of course, there was always safer — so a part of it is also about safer sex, but also about the Sex Worker Press Agency, PR, and we always played a lot, and simply spread new information. What else? I don’t know. But, as I said, it was never just about HIV and AIDS, never. It was always with part of the whole thing.

Carsten Schatz: So we experience that even today. But back then, when we spoke about access to treatment, it was important to ask about your perspective on that: Where are you from? And which mechanisms of exclusion are at play? And they have to be grasped in their specificity. And for that, an atmosphere is needed in which people can actually open up about their experiences, and where they don’t just get subsumed in this wide landscape of experiences. Then you can actually speak about how we can remove the barriers that people are confronted with when it comes to access to treatment, to medication or I would say even accessing the medical system in general. But for that you need an atmosphere like that, in my opinion. And that is something that I learned in a very involved way. For that, you need an atmosphere in which people can speak completely openly about themselves, and about their lives and backgrounds. And I believe that actually existed in Waldschlösschen [gay educational center] back in the day, although I know there are many who see that differently. The meetings there were always considered too gay male, and that is probably still the case. But I felt it was very important. For example, Waldschlösschen was for me, personally, the first place where I had extensive contact with people who used drugs. I didn’t have that before. That wasn’t part of my everyday. To have this experience, and to find out: “What are their problems? Where are they being excluded?” I found that very helpful. That enriched my perspective. And I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that. Without these experiences, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

Metadiskussion Nr. 1


Theater X: Next Generation Ensemble

ACT OUT! The Spirits, which called us
We ask ourselves: Who is or is considered sick? And what makes us ill? Which people are helped and how? And is that fair? We look at the current pandemic, the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and our very own experiences. Because we also have stories to tell: of waiting rooms, visits to the doctor’s office and sex education.
Then we ask ourselves: Does it all have to be like this? What could be done differently? And how? In what ways have people protested in similar situations in the past? And can we do the same?
We work together with the Schwules Museum, go to the archives, talk to activists, and then see how this fits on stage.
Direction: Annika Füser
Dramaturgy:: Gwen Lesmeister
Stage and Costume: Selina Thylmann & Elisa Nelvand

Next Generation Ensemble
Theater X

Excerpt from script 2021
9. Doing queer love:
Queens come onto the stage with microphones (Echo Effect)Marie: We have been caring through fight.
Nadi: We have fought caringly.

m: But our voices disappear in the noise of analogue film.
N: Our names fall between the lines of a book.
m: Our memories melt away in the sea of years.

Come onto the stage…friends with Serina

N: Who is not seen? 
m: Who is not heard?
n: About whom is not remembered?
Marie: Where are the lost stories in the history of loss?

David tends. Sam and Ishmael come onto the stage. Serina joins them. All of the others also come onto the stage. Group: Holding-Themselves-Movements. +

Marie and Nadir go to David. They sit down together. They fold the plastic very neatly.

Marie and Nadir greet David: 
Hello sweetheart.

Do you remember how we used to do shifts back then?
So that she was not alone in the flat?
But the most important thing was that there were always salmon sandwiches ready!

Nadir: And chilled bubbly. No matter how much vomiting there was.

Marie: “Sweetheart, bring me another glass!?”

Nadir: She was such a Diva!

David: Those months when things went so downhill and she hardly came out of the hospital. She was so emaciated, I really thought it was over. What did she always say? “AIDS comes from American English and means nothing helps!”

The three of us sat in your kitchen, crying our eyes out and listening to Elvis Presley.

Marie: You really helped me back then. Without you, I wouldn’t have made it to her in the hospital the next day.
David: But it was good that we took her home from the hospital. Everything was so sterile and boring there.

Nadir: And then she suddenly felt a bit better again. And she threw herself this huge party. She would have loved to have celebrated with an orgy. Above all, nothing bourgeois!

David: She didn’t want to be careful all the time, think about what was and wasn’t possible, not be lonely and isolate herself. All that while dying anyway. She wanted to die more beautifully, continue fucking. She wanted to live while dying!

Marie: Like at the party! Everyone was buzzing around her and she loved it! The way she sat in her bed like on a throne. She could hardly stand up but was still the queen of the party.

Nadir: And her bad jokes!

David: True, we had to listen to them until the very end.
The group discusses mundanely while setting up the chairs.
Serina: If I only had one day to live, I’d stuff my face at a steak house [Blockhaus]. Chilly cheese burgers. With all of the people I like. Everything on me… no, just kidding, I have no money. Everything on my mother, she would definitely take care of me like that.

Lumo: I want to dance until I’m totally out of breath.

Ismael: I want to cuddle again.
David: Oh yes, cuddle, party all night and smoke lots of cigarettes.

Group: Huh? David, you don’t even smoke.

David: Exactly.

Sam: I want an orgy in our queer sex club [Kitkat]. I’d even jump in the pool.

Ozan: I want to drive in a limo to the fanciest shop [KaDeWe]. Britney Spears’ Gimme more on my headphones, and then just like that go into the store. And then buy myself that one Louis Vuitton bag! In beige!

Nele: Shut up, I want to drink again in our queer corner bar [Meute]!!!!

Ismael: Or cycle hands-free downhill.

Marie: I would love to walk around that house in Burkina Faso again like I did when I was 5 years old.

Nadir: I want to listen to old Balkan songs on a plane to Sarajevo from where I parachute onto my grandma’s house.

Sam: Or go for a walk again on the Elphi meadow [Elphi-Wiese]…
They gather at the edge of the stage. 

Ok. Ready? Ready!

Burials. Individual. 

They all say goodbye.
Everyone brings together: Chairs to a gravestone. David places a folded piece of plastic in the grave.

Sound: Friends will be friends

Quilt Projection, Video, Images -> White House Act Up Quilt and Funeral March.Commemoration

Sam reads from a piece of paper:

Jürgen Baldiga wrote:
“We embraced the plague

as the plague did us

we had learned that a touch is followed by a touch

became fewer

with every embrace, we lost a part of our vocabulary

our sentences became shorter

then the stories

everything became somehow porous

I wondered for a moment if my face would disappear too.

From where should I get the certainty that someone will stand up and say:

That is the story, that is not.”

Marie: In memory of all those who died and those who have been forgotten in the AIDS crisis.


<3 id="10">Questions to the Archive

This video is still bring produced. Come back later for more!


Traces of positive life and commitment belong in archives and museums, because AIDS has written history. The website aidsarchive.net offers information so that the many stories, memories, documents and experiences are not lost for posterity. On the website you can find collections and archives that could be a suitable place for the traces of personal life, political or artistic commitment and self-help.
Aidsarchive.net offers comprehensive know-how on how to deal with pre- and posthumous bequests and the legal issues as well as assistance in handing over material to museums and archives.
The flyer is available at the entrance to the room. It can also be downloaded as a PDF or ordered here.

Aids hat viele Gesichter/AIDS has many faces

Birol Isik talks about these photos in his interview in the Berlin AIDS Oral History Collection (BAOHS). This sequence also forms the end of the clip clips „Mourning“, which can also be seen in the focus on dying in this exhibition. Only copies of the original prints are available in the photo collection of the Schwules Museum. The whereabouts of the original prints are unclear.

Reprint from digitised photos – Andreas Salmen

The partial estate of Hans Hengelein belongs to the collection Modell-Projekt Aids-Archiv of the Forschungsstelle Kulturgeschichte der Sexualität at the Humboldt University of Berlin. The printout was made from the digital copy of the original photos. The digital copy is already part of the collection, while the original photos remain in the possession of Hans Hengelein until further notice.

Through Positive Eyes

Through Positive Eyes is a collaborative photo-storytelling project by more than 140 people living with HIV and AIDS in various cities around the world.

Read more..


Converser Sex

In Infektiös (1992/93), the Cologne-based artist Roger Lips (1952-94) presented his tryptichon “Conserver Sex left, Above as well as below, Conserver Sex right” (all 1992). For this he sent a model to the Schwules (Gay) Museum – in the form of a three-part folding card containing three photos representing the work. “Conserver Sex” represented Lips’ critique of commercialised gay sex (including pornography), which he contrasted with tenderness – also as a means of avoiding AIDS. Lips himself was HIV-positive and died as a result of the immunodeficiency disease only two years after the exhibition.

“Conserver Sex” was last presented in Tapetenwechsel (“Change of scenery”, 2017/18).



David Wojnarowicz an/to Andreas Salmen

The New York City-based artist David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) gives permission to the Berlin-based Aids activist Andreas Salmen (1962-1992) to use his iconic poster “One day …” (translated into German for the Berlin exhibition “Über’s Sofa” in 1990) for Salmen’s ACT UP activities & Stop AIDS project


The lacquered wooden pedestal was built for Untitled (1988), a paper stack work presented by the Cuban-born, openly gay New York conceptual artist Félix González-Torres (1957-1996) in the 1990 exhibition Über’s Sofa (Above the Sofa), a joint project of the NGbK, the Gay Museum and the German Aids Federation, initiated by the independent curator Frank Wagner. The work originally shown on this pedestal consisted of blank sheets of paper that visitors were allowed to take home with them. Since the end of Über’s Sofa, this pedestal – along with another paper stack work (“Join”) – has been in the Gay Museum, which displayed both of them in the archive-centred 100 Objects exhibition (2020), 30 years after the original show.

One Day…

Reproduction of a print by David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) from 1990, showing the artist as a teenager in the 1960s, surrounded by a text describing the probable outcome of the discovery of his homosexuality. The original print Untitled (One Day This Boy…), New York City 1990, contained the text in English. The German poster was produced in cooperation with the AIDS action group ACT UP Berlin/Feuer unterm Hintern (Fire beneath the butt); with the translation coming from Jürgen Richter. It was specially made for the Berlin exhibition Übers Sofa (February/March 1990, a cooperation of NGbK, Schwules Museum and D.A.H., all Berlin). Wojnarowicz gave his permission for it to be used freely for actions of the DAH, ACT UP as well as STOP AIDS PROJECT (Andreas Salmen), cf. Wojnarowicz’ letter to Salmen (8 Feb 1991) in the showcase. The poster was also used for the cover of the AIDS Forum DAH special volume on ACT UP (September 1991) edited by Salmen, which documents the history, themes and forms of action of the ACT UP groups.

Über’s Sofa – Auf die Strasse

The contributions to the Über’s Sofa catalogue, all written by the curator Frank Wagner, had been published (during the winter of 1989/90) in 4 parts in the magazine magnus, with Wagner introducing the four New York artists and AIDS activists, who had been rather unknown in Berlin until then, individually: David Wojnarowicz, Donald Moffet, Félix González-Torres, and, last but not least, John Lindell.

Poster: Über’s Sofa – Auf die Strasse

Under the heading “Art and Gay Culture in the Age of AIDS”, the Gay Museum presented four young American artists who shared two aspects: All four artists lived in New York, and what they had in common was their “exemplary dedication to gay everyday life, fears and longings, confronting it with the AIDS crisis and thus turning their reflection on gay life politically”, as the exhibition announcement put it. Their being artists manifested itself in the top title Über’s Sofa (Over the Sofa), where artworks sometimes hang, while the addition Auf die Straßen (Into the Streets) referred to their commitment as AIDS activists: the four were all actively involved with ACT UP New York. They each already had solo exhibitions in the USA – Über’s Sofa was both their first group exhibition and their first exhibition in Europe.
The curator Frank Wagner from the Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst (NGbK), who had shown the first AIDS-themed art exhibition in Europe with VOLLBILD AIDS in Berlin in 1988, was the initiator. Wagner brought the New York artists, who were virtually unknown in Europe, to Berlin. He convinced the Schwules (Gay) Museum and the Deutsche Aidshilfe to become partners for the venture. The exhibition took place in February and March 1990 in the rooms of the NGbK in Berlin-Kreuzberg.

White AIDS („AIDS, weiß“)

The iconic wallpaper of the Canadian artist collective General Idea (consisting of AA Bronson, Felix Partz und Jorge Zontal) was first shown at the Schwules Museum on the occasion of the Homosexualität_en exhibition (“Homosexualit_ies”) in 2015, when the corridor between exhibition rooms 1 and 3 was wallpapered with it.
The only dimly visible four letters of White AIDS symbolise the official invisibility of the theme in the early 1990s in New York, where the three artists (originally from Toronto) had been working since 1986.
The wallpaper refers to Robert Indiana’s “LOVE” sculpture; in a provocative way, LOVE becomes AIDS. There is also a visibly coloured variant, referred to by the artist collective Gran Fury (“Riot”) – both are pictured on “Your Nostalgia Is Killing Me” in the DYING section of arcHIV. Karol Radizewski also referred to General Idea with his AIDS wallpaper.

Infektiös– Kunst und Alltag, Leben mit AIDS

Infektiös – Kunst und Alltag, Leben mit AIDS (Infectious – Art and Everyday Life, Living with AIDS) focused on gay everyday life under the conditions of HIV and AIDS. While the 1970s were marked by gay liberation, in the 1980s AIDS took the place of state and social repression as a threat. It became the central topic of the time in the gay scene. Under the working title “AIDS and Everyday Life”, the Infektiös exhibition for the first time took up a “current problem of gay life,” as was announced – a novelty for an institution that, in its own words, had “so far been more history-oriented.”
Various aspects of AIDS were shown: “death, mourning, the AIDS ward in the hospital, dealing with the disease, HIV-positive self-confidence, love and sex, AIDS phobias and repressions, media coverage, anger about heterosexual grandeur and official AIDS policy.” In this way, the “museum fags (…) hoped to make a small contribution to information about AIDS.”
Many gay artists, who were often HIV-positive themselves, if not suffering from full AIDS, contributed their work, including Roger Lips or Jürgen Baldiga. With the American photographer Annie Leibovitz, a lesbian artist (and the only non-German citizen) was also represented.
The project was supported by the Deutsche Aidshilfe, which provided a large part of the funding. It was planned to show Infektiös as a travelling exhibition in other places later on, but despite the interest of various local AIDS organisations, this often failed due to a lack of suitable rooms. Infektiös was shown once again in June 1993 in the Tränenpalast as a contribution to “Aids Culture – Cultural Aids”, the cultural festival of the IX International Aids Congress, which took place in Berlin.

Es kann sein, dass ich Fieber habe…

It could be a fever, because of me, because of you, because of love…” – A photographic approach towards life with HIV: In 32 photographs in 24×36 format, the Austrian-born artist Christoph Burtscher, who lives in Berlin, took up his own illness in his intimate exhibition at the turn of the year 2002/03. Thus, his works highlight the medical dimension of the everyday dependency of many HIV-positive people, who live day-to-day with newly developed medicines that on the one hand open up life perspectives, but on the other hand can have considerable side effects. Burtscher groups photographic examples of everyday illness experiences of HIV-positive people. His photographs are about blood counts, diarrhoea or the removal of moles that have become dangerous. The subject is the suffering of HIV-positive people and their fear of physical decay.

Sperm Portraits

Between 2003 and 2008, the artist Martin von Ostrowski (born 1958) painted 30 portraits in silhouette form with sperm, first of himself, then also of friends.

Wärme, die nur Feuer uns geben kann

For more than two years, from 1991 to 1993, Berlin-based photographer Aron Neubert (b. 1967) portrayed his friend and colleague Jürgen Baldiga (1959-1993) at monthly intervals, resulting in 27 images documenting Baldiga’s life and death. Neubert curated his portrait series in 1996 at the Gay Museum under the title Wärme, die nur Feuer uns geben kann (Warmth which only fire can give us; a catalogue of the same name was published. Wärme… initiated a transition from large group exhibitions on AIDS to more intimate cabinet exhibitions (in a smaller side room of the museum) by artist curators, i.e., individual gay artists who showed exhibitions on individual aspects of AIDS. These include the exhibitions by Christoph Burtscher and Martin von Ostrowski in the Noughties.

Working on a Miracle: Nine Attempts at HIV Blood and Saints

The Austrian-born und Berlin-based photographer Christoph Burtscher, whose work often reflects upon his positive HIV status, tells the story of a personally experienced miracle in nine large black-and-white pictures – he speaks of his personal hope for protection and healing as well as temporary improvement. Burtscher used large-format photographs from the medical laboratory, which he abstracted using various techniques, to form photographic “HIV blood pictures.” As a bracket for these blood pictures, Burtscher used representations of saints, which in the Christian pictorial and narrative tradition are unalterably linked with miracle-stories, in which blood often plays a central role


The exhibition on the occasion of the anniversary of the Berliner Aidshilfe e.V. (BAH) – founded in the same year as the Schwules (Gay) Museum (1985) – looked back on 30 years of Berlin HIV/AIDS history. In addition to extensive print and photo material, activists had their say in an audio installation, while vivid film material rounded off the retrospective and built a bridge to life with HIV/AIDS today.


The pattern for the wallpaper was created by Ryszard Kisiel and consists of a small collage of Donald Duck stickers and the letters A, I, D, S. In 1989, Kisiel created this work for filo, the “monthly magazine for those who love differently.” Karol Radziszewski’s (b. 1980) wallpaper refers to several models: Robert Indiana’s LOVE (the original on which all the following works are based), General Ideas AIDS as well as Gran Fury’s RIOT! The General Ideas wallpaper is also exhibited in arcHIV, and is also visible in the work “Your Nostalgia Is Killing Me” (next to the RIOT motif).
In his exhibition at the Schwules (Gay) Museum, the Queer Archives Institute (2018), which deals with various aspects of homosexuality and sexuality in Eastern Europe in the times of the “Iron Curtain” and in the post-communist present, Radziszewski displayed Kysiel’s original collage and papered an entire wall with the Donald Duck motif.


In TRIAL & ERROR – TRANSforming health and justice (SMU, 2019/20), Giegold & Weiß addressed issues of health services, sex education and rights for trans* people. Their work FtM vs HIV focused on bio-political power structures and discrimination as faced in particular by FtM (Female to Male) and non-binary Trans* persons. A supplementary series of participatory performances in Trial and Error sought to find light-hearted metaphors for violent conditions and bring to life trans* normalities.

HIVstories – Living Politics

How are politics and life narratives in the fields of HIV/AIDS activism in Europe entangled? The research and exhibition project HIVstories: Living Politics explored different ways of living politics from the perspectives of a variety of particularly impacted communities in Europe. It was made up of a collection of oral history interviews, artefacts and art works that have been collected over the course of a three-year research project, “Disentangling European HIV/AIDS Policies: Activism, Citizenship and Health” (EUROPACH), which explored how narratives of the past continue to impact the unfolding of the epidemic. It focused on the ways in which lives are shaped by politics, and politics are shaped by lives, in some regions of Europe.
A section on Germany focused on HIV prevention in prisons. In Poland, the expression of discontent through protest was narrated with the support of interview excerpts with HIV and harm reduction activists. A section on Turkey focused on the different historical phases of HIV and AIDS, and shows the entanglements of social movements, state politics, and media representations. And last but not least, a section on the UK investigated current discussions surrounding HIV by looking back to gay life before the virus as well as contemporary discussions on the prevention medication PrEP. „HIVstories” is an open invitation to look at the past and present of HIV activism from a perspective that embraces the fringes of society.

During 2019/20, the exhibition was shown in Berlin, Warsaw as well as Istanbul. (The London leg was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.) In arcHIV, the Polish catalogue cover is exhibited.

Gelassen und ohne Trauer auf den Weg in den Tod

Central to this article is a typical Jürgen Baldiga photo in b/w. It is one of three photos in the focus dying that show an “AIDS body”: The Benetton Ad as a picture in picture of “Your Nostalgia Is Killing Me” and “Personne n’a envie de vieillir”.
The starkly different composition and staging of the three images pushes the question of what effect each of these images was intended to have on whom.

Collection about Andreas Salmen

Andreas Salmen was active in various gay and AIDS political contexts. His main estate is in the archive of the Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung. The exhibits on him in this exhibition draw from various sources. In the focus archiving in this exhibition are two photos of him from the estate of Hans Hengelein in the Modell-Projekt Aids-Archiv of the Forschungsstelle Kulturgeschichte der Sexualität at the Humboldt University of Berlin.
The three exhibits compiled here come from the “ACT UP Berlin” and “Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe” collections in the archive of the Schwules Museum. Further exhibits on Andreas Salmen come from other collections in the archive of the Schwules Museum.

„Your Nostalgia Is Killing Me“

How can we account for the AIDS crises that is still occurring in different communities and contexts, and also remember the AIDS crisis of the 80’s and 90’s? “The difficulties, but also the necessity, of achieving both of these in times of the Internet are at the heart of the artistic work ‘Your Nostalgia is Killing Me’ by Vincent Chevalier and Ian Bradley-Perrin. The topic has also been addressed in a multifaceted discussion about the influence of nostalgia on our ability to adequately address the ongoing AIDS crises. In a recorded panel discussion, available on the Internet, Chevalier describes his perception of the current treatment of HIV in art and documentary film, which constitutes the focus of this work with Bradley-Perrin: The virtual and rapid circulation and repurposing of artworks from specific places and times render a simultaneity of past and present. Here, the past is placed more strongly in focus – albeit in a decontextualized way – which entails a risk of denying the present.”
Source: Genderblog

Personne n’a envie de vieillir

Under “Your Nostalgia Is Killing Me,” a question arises about the aesthetic used in the poster, with the help of the renowned Italian photographer Francesco Zizola, by placing a Black body and dying of AIDS in a stereotypical relationship: Africa (as undifferentiated continent) = Death. The religious connotation of the lighting from above, which illuminates only a small part of the face, and its intensification through the upwards gaze of the Black person, create the impression of an artistic staging, which is difficult to bear in view of the person’s emaciated body. Reinforced by the dilapidation of the wall, this staging of a passively surrendered Black body reproduces the gaze of colonial France on its formerly colonised countries. This composition of image and text further reinforces this rendering of the Black body as passive. It is as unlikely that the photographed person dramatised the image herself as it is implausible that she is the author of the text accompanying the image.“Nobody wants to grow old.
I do.
It was enough that AIDS forbade it.

Every new wrinkle is a small victory,
another story burned into the skin.
I would like to count them, again and again, like a warning,
and one day be able to be far away,
shed my little tear
the memory of the good old days.

To experience wisdom and peace of mind,
at a venerable age.

And to bind me to myself after many years,
my children’s children,
To see them running around me, not caring about my old bones,
and to hear squeals,
for at least the hundredth time,
the story of the lion and the elephant.”

Quilt: Bernd Baumann

Alongside “Your Nostalgia Is Killing Me” and “Personne n’a envie de vieillir,” the quilt represents a private form of engagement with death and mourning. The public presentation of the quilt in the context of the exhibition takes place in a specific hanging, which forms a kind of modern triptych intended to show different thematic axes. With its religious character, the triptych takes up the gaze of the Black person from “Personne n’a envie de vieillir,” who meets a second Black person appearing at the edge of the quilt. Based on the life chronology (to the right of the quilt), this person can be identified as the adopted brother of the deceased.
Self-confidence emanates from his posing even if his representation in the quilt seems somewhat isolated. This axis contrasts and extends towards the Person of Color in the image from “Your Nostalgia Is Killing Me,” which has a clear activist positioning with the sign “Queer Nation.” In the image above that one, a Benetton advertisement again explicitly takes up a religious connotation using the Pietà motif. Here, however, a person is cut out of the picture on the left side (also in the original advertisement), so that only their hands are visible.
Who is missing?


Video clip about the different experiences with AIDS deaths and mourning. The interview partners talk about different individual and collective methods of mourning and remember the deceased.This video clip, together with the video clip on diversity (which can be seen in the focus area “Archiving” in this exhibition), gives an impression of the range of interviews in the Berlin AIDS Oral History Collection.The collection is a project of the Schwules Museum Berlin and at the same time part of the European HIV/AIDS Archive, where you can also find more interviews with a Berlin connection.

Further information on the clip mourning

Video Translation: 

Birol Isik: So World AIDS Day was always, that’s when things would happen of course, when it came to being HIV positive, to become ill, but from the perspective of a western, from a western point of view, no? We said, but here in this — in this city, or in Germany, migrants also live here, right? And, in various languages the issue of suffering from AIDS, here on the poster we — to be suffering from AIDS, and being illegal, that is very difficult, is a very difficult situation and to be ill here is illegal thus, ill + egal [irrelevant]. That is completely irrelevant, no? So, whether you get ill or not, no? No one will care for you, right?

And who —

No health insurance.

Is this ADM [HIV/AIDS counselling project for people with Turkish or Arabic backgrounds] then?

Yes exactly, that was handled by ADM.

And where is this, so —

That was here at Ku’damm, on the way to the Urania. Where those li- — candles would be put for World AIDS Day. That was this —

Can you tell — tell me more about that?

So, a political message so to say, hey, people are getting ill, don’t have health insurance, how are they supposed to get treated, right? So, yeah.

Dorothea Strauß: Back then there were two options — once I found out I got infected, that I developed AIDS. One option was I withdraw and die lonely, or I out myself, and I treat the issue in an assertive way. And I also become active in the AIDS-Hilfe, in Kirche PositHIV [PositHIV church], in HIV/AIDS service organisations, I build up a network and people did that. Mostly they were gay men. And gradually that changed, as far as the worshipping community is concerned. That was very interesting. So, because — so first women who had lost their sons or children would join, who perhaps had already been active in congregations — in any congregation. Who were involved with a church, but it would often be the case that when you come to us, our services, as a mother, there would be other mothers there you would meet.

Ute Hiller: Of course, it’s a big responsibility for the city. There should be a dignified place. The one place that exists, with the positHIV memorial on the Alter St.-Matthäus Kirchhof [cemetery], there we have a very beautiful, very moving place in a beautiful spot, although it is one that for some people feels connected to the church, which doesn’t work. The other place, which is on the Urania, is at a busy crossing, and no one actually knows why it is there. Apart from the fact that it’s close to Fuggerstraße maybe, it’s a mystery. Why is it there and not somewhere else?

Carsten Schatz: And then ‘96 came on top of that. Practically months after Corrie’s death you experience — a treatment appears somehow, making you think “Fucking hell. Why didn’t it work? Why did it happen only half a year earlier?” Because of course, somehow, everyone would say, if you would have fought off the basic illness effectively, then you would have been able to do something more effective to fight this cancer for example. But that just wasn’t possible. And it was really bitter. To have to experience that. And, of course, all in all that is still a question that I somehow ask myself very often still, when I think back about how many people died. And yes, it was so close. Around ‘95 or ‘96. Why did they die but I didn’t? That is peculiar. Such a peculiar question that you ask yourself.

Bernd Bossmann: Do you know if these funerals already happened here in the 90s as well?

There were still a few, yes, yes. For people who died of the long-term effects, and from that we also have a few nice experiences, of — when people died from AIDS. Then parents decided to get a grave here for their son but got one for themselves then too. And then from Munich or wherever — when they died, they would be buried here. So that they can be together with their child here.

Such things can bring you to tears, right? I know of a very conservative, small chubby man in a suit, I believe they came from Bavaria. He did that as well. And I find that, ehm, find that wonderful.

Dorothea Strauß: Yes, well there’s a lot of variety when it comes to funerals. I even experienced that a friend of mine — I mentioned him before, who was pastor in the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Württemberg, and got buried there. His parents neither knew that he was gay, nor that he had AIDS. They found out at the hospital, which is a very… unpleasant, let’s say, difficult situation. But I also experienced that in Berlin. So, there were many stories like that. Initially I experienced that many, especially gay men, treated their own dying in an assertive way. They wanted, what drove them was once again acceptance for their way of life. People didn’t want to let others decide for them, they wanted to decide for themselves. They wanted to decide who would care for them. Yes? That’s why a nursing service was founded in the AIDS-Hilfe [HIV/AIDS Service Organisation], because they said: I don’t want to have people in my home who don’t accept my way of life. And they often dealt with all of this assertively — they also wanted to know: How do I want to die? How do I want to be buried? How do I want that to happen? And that’s where I return to the experience of this friend, where I experienced myself — I was at the funeral and thought: I don’t know him at all. You see? I thought, what is this? The person who is being buried here — I have no connection to this person at all. Because there was no mention of — it was — that which he had experienced, as — how I knew him, was completely omitted in this memorial service. His parents and family were standing somewhere else — I often experienced this at funerals after that: Friends, Berlin friends would stand in one spot, and the family somewhere else, which is where I’m reminded of the Swabian Alps, very pious people, and for them it was extraordinarily difficult, that their son would be buried here. But that’s what he had decided. And that’s where completely different ways of life would meet, which didn’t have anything to do with each other, that didn’t know each other, which were — yes, completely strange to one another, a different world. And they would be brought together at the funeral.

Exactly, you’re in the middle and have to —


— go back and forth between them.

Yes, which I wouldn’t do, that was then — so I said: I won’t do that. I never outed anyone at their funeral. I didn’t take that upon me, this role, I refused that. I always said: You have to decide on that, you have to do that. I won’t tell your parents at your grave that you had AIDS. I won’t do that… There were of course situations, where that — indeed that was always an issue: Whom do I tell that to? And there were situations where parents would come to Berlin, who didn’t know that their son was gay, who didn’t know that he was HIV positive. Amongst them were also those who repressed it, that’s possible. You wouldn’t believe that, but I experienced it, on the AIDS ward, where it was written: “AIDS Ward”, the word AIDS was written there. There was even a sign: “I have AIDS, hug me anyway” on the ward, and people were convinced that their son was dying of a brain tumor.

Birol Isik: And there the hardest encounter was 1999. A young Turkish gay guy, who tested positive for HIV. Who at the time was already a little — in the gay community in SO36 [club], Gayhane [gay party], he would come there, you see. So, came there as a young guy, right? Like that. Performed there, stuff like that. And when he became HIV-positive, and experienced this rift: How do I deal with this within the Turkish community, with my parents, right? Like that. How do I tell them. So much, so much guilt…  So, I immediately, at the next Gayhane I, a big, so we made a big — like an altar with candles, and everyone should bring pictures, right? And then we, we — yes at the time, at Gayhane we would always have this cultural part, not just disco, but a cultural part. And that night we, in this cultural context, we held a memorial, right. And there was the funeral.  He was — a part was, of course, of him was in the heterosexual world — with his family and relatives and one, one leg was in the gay community, or the gay/lesbian community. And both wanted to say goodbye to him. And there were scuffles, as it were, even at the grave, I have to say. Accusations, back and forth. That was very extreme.

Carsten Schatz: Yes, but sadly he somehow got very ill at the end of 1995. He still had a little time here going through the Berlin hospitals. So the AVK [Auguste Viktoria Clinic] as per usual, I was already familiar with that. But then as well — because he had a — had this cancer in his head. And they actually did attempt an operation at the Benjamin Franklin [hospital]. And there it was clear rather quickly that they, the operation was more or less successful. They had been able to remove 80% of the lymphoma. The rest they wanted to treat with radiation, but then it became clear that the tumor had grown a lot again in a very short time, despite the radiation, so that it was then clear — the prospect is pretty clear, it is approaching its end. And then he decided — that was in the beginning of ’96 – that he, because he was in Berlin for a very short time, was his circle of friends, that he had built — it wasn’t huge. And he said then “I would rather go back to my family,” which wasn’t his biological family, but the family he had created, there in Los Angeles. And we made that possible somehow, so with help from friends — and said at very short notice: “Okay, then we’ll go back, so he can die there.” And that is what happened, at the beginning of ‘96, and now I have to say, in all this intensity, because that was always blow after blow, all too quickly, one after the other. So, as I said, he arrived in August. Then we started in September, he went to the Volkshochschule [adult education centre]. To learn German. That we somehow tried to figure out: What is he capable of? What can he do here? So, and then in November this illness came on top of that, where he — I took him to my doctor who treated him without asking, “How is he insured?” But then he quickly ended up in the hospital. And then it just came blow after blow. Every day something new. And I have to say, this period from November ‘95 until after his death. That was a time for me where I could hardly find time to breath. Because there was something new literally every day. Somehow every day I had to take care of something new. And of course, that was — when I came back to Berlin after he died. That was a pretty difficult time for me, because of course I needed to process this personal loss. But then on the other hand to see this image — that was before Vancouver still — where I thought, that is a real possibility. The question is when? So still that was ‘96. I was already over 25 then. So, I did have the feeling that it could continue. Yes, but for me personally that was a very difficult time, where I tried to stay alive more by staying active. Of course, people deal with something like that differently. I am one of those who throws himself into work. Who somehow does things not to go insane.

Ute Hiller: But the question is also: If I was three times at a funeral procession, is that for me? There are certainly people who want to do that year after year, turn that into a ritual. Perhaps after 20 years, still take part in an event like that? Or maybe for my personal mourning there’s a year of mourning, that’s what people always call it, and after that I return to life. The feeling is one of becoming more visible to the outside. Demonstrating is the motivation to go there, perhaps a different motivation as when you are addressing individual mourning. And now of course you would have to ask the former participants in the funeral procession: For what reason were you there back then? And the answers will probably be mixed because we would be reminded of our personal connection to the people in the images that were carried in the procession. That was a part of the procession as well. We remember the balloons with name tags.  It was a very personalised affair and not so much a demo. Could be a demo but the imagery that was used, that was more a personalised one. That is why it has always been a product of its time. And I believe that for some people it is very important that that still exists, but probably no longer for those 900 that were there in 2000.

Carsten Schatz: Well, I did, in Berlin, I didn’t see that, I have to say. I saw it around the 1993 AIDS conference in Berlin where I helped to organise a few things. There was that mourning event on Reuterplatz where we made crosses in the courtyard of the Tuntenhaus [a queer squat] on Kastanienallee. And I remember, as we were there building everything, a debate started about why we were making crosses. We should also make crescents and Stars of David. We then made them too. It looked so silly, making crescents out of whatever kind of wood, flat strips of wood. But we did that then too. And they were put up on Reuterplatz around the water fountain. And that was a spot where the demo, which started at Nollendorfplatz, sort of hung around. At the beginning of the ’93 conference. This was organised by ACT UP Berlin. I was part of that. I thought it was quite good.

Bernd Bossmann: But this matter-of-factness, it was everywhere, the Polittunte [political queen] Ichgola Androgyn — always with the feminine pronoun, opened the first cemetery café in Germany. I wasn’t aware of that at all, because I didn’t open it to open the first cemetery café, but because I just wanted to be in the cemetery, because there — where I could be with Ovo — I had the desire to go there often. Also just to swear at her or something. That she abandoned me. But also, with the thing, she had a right to it. And then, as I said, the building spoke to me: “Do something — you wanted to make something out of me, well then do it!” And that’s what I did then, you see?

Laura Méritt: Well, it would happen — every, every death of someone you know is something that hits you deeply. And that so many died of the disease and — I felt that was terrible, but I thought the worst was the stigmatisation, that, that was connected to that. Or that people spoke of the ‘plague’, or something like that. That, that made me the mo-, or rather, made me the saddest — yes. And it was great, that there was a movement for a — how, how do you say? — a, a dignified death. That this funeral culture changed a lot, no? There the whole hospice movement is —it developed alongside it. A lot happened there, and that is also a good thing. Also, at the Matthäus Cemetery, the way that looks, no? — that’s just something so beautiful, that in the end was created because of all these events, these — and also the movement that arose then, that now another way to deal with death has set in. And we’ve really come a long way now, no? — in that you can pick your own death. How you want to die, the, the awareness that you can organise that yourself, no? Allow yourself — no? Don’t let, let others, who would do it in a normative way — how they assume they have to do it, or in a commercial way or something. An enormous amount has changed in that respect, and I find that — with that I am also incredibly grateful that, that death has simply become more approachable. Death has become a part of my life. Which means I can handle it better, you see? And just the parties that there would be, no? That all — not all, but, no? Where, where you would go, dressed exuberantly, where you would sing, no? — we still do that today. Simply that these are truly great parties. And then there are special — special performances, or that someone was looking to ensure that what this person wanted is being done. I think that’s really great.

Ute Hiller: Within the AIDS-Hilfe [AIDS Service Organisation], the book of mourning provides an over-arching continuum into which all of the obituaries have been fixed, where people could write something there as well. By now it is in the Ulrichs [café of the Berlin AIDS Service Organisation], it used to be in the reception room. That caused major discussions: “Is it appropriate that when I finally got myself to do an HIV test, I then turn right to these books?” Is that a good thing? Is it bad? There were different kinds of mourning walls where the obituaries were hung. Café posithiv hat its own Ahnengalerie [ancestral portrait gallery], so operators [of the café] who were positive, or friends of the posithiv, who had died and were hung on the wall to remember them. We don’t have one of those now. There is still the Buddha or “Puta” outside on the terrace where the stones with names on them lie. But those are very different things. The memorial book is more for visitors. The one here above is more for colleagues to put something there if they wish. Whenever we found other places, we immediately found reasons why they actually wouldn’t be appropriate places. That is the process we are in right now, and perhaps it is also part of it, to find a way to deal with it, that you never find a final solution for something like that.

Dorothea Strauß: Exactly, that is our AIDS remembrance book. That was, that was — which was very important to us — would be manufactured in the jail in Tegel.

That’s great.

Yes, that was important for us, there is a bindery there, and this book would be made especially — there is even a booklet about that, which was artistically put together – would be made in the bindery in jail in Tegel — would be put together, especially for us, in jail. And put together especially for this purpose. And then we had an epigraph, “IN MEMORY OF ALL THOSE WHO DIED OF AIDS, WHO WE LOVED, WE MISS THEM” and this was written on a poster or, banner, as they say, above the AIDS memorial altar. And first we entered the names of our friends, they are — we started with them as it were, and now, two years ago we stopped running that. Which is partially because the friend of mine, who used to — who would enter the names, also died from the consequences of AIDS. We considered carrying on with it, that still, but it didn’t happen for different reasons. Altogether, André, which is the name of my friend who died, entered 800 names.

Birol Isik: That’s an image, we see there names with a cross added to them. So Jaruslav, who died in Berlin, Pankow. So, names from different cultures, or ethnicities, who died in this city. And AIDS has many faces, united against exclusion, right? So, at the Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe [German AIDS Service Organisation] too, in the beginning, everything was very western-oriented all blond, blue-eyed people on their postcards and so on, no names from different countries, you see. And we said: no, that’s not the way things are. Things are different in real life. And so we made these signs, you see.


Since 1993, the ecumenical AIDS initiative KIRCHE positHIV has maintained an AIDS memorial book in which the names of deceased persons could be entered at the request of individuals close to them. The book was displayed and available for viewing on a memorial altar in the Kirche Am Lietzensee [Church at Lake Lietzensee] in Berlin-Charlottenburg.
Each year on World AIDS Day, KIRCHE positHIV held a service during which the names were read aloud of those persons registered in the previous year. There has also been an opportunity there to light a candle as a personal act of remembrance.
At the 2003 Ökumenischen Kirchentag [Ecumenical Church Congress], there was a centre “AIDS and One World” in the Kirche Am Lietzensee that included international participation. The highlight was an ecumenical service with commemoration of the dead. On behalf of all those who died as a result of AIDS, names from all over the world, provided by the guests, were read from the book of remembrance.
By 2012, over 800 names had been handwritten by André Leonardy into the book.

Photographs, presumably Aktionstag Solidarität der Uneinsichtigen

The six photos, taken at short intervals, presumably show the performance of the “homosolidarity” chants (see sheet of music above) on the occasion of the day of action ” Solidarität der Uneinsichtigen”. Hans Peter Hauschild is in the middle of the group. The compilation of photos below was found in the same part of Hauschild’s estate, but presumably show a different demonstration.

In the Name of the People

In 1986/87, the Federal Republic of Germany began to prosecute people living with HIV who did not inform sexual partners about their infection. The case of a Black U.S. citizen (see above flyer, Der Spiegel. Die großen Kampagnen [Der Spiegel. The Big Campaigns]), which is the basis of an appeal hearing before the Federal Supreme Court, gave rise to a solidarity movement, initially in Nuremberg with the “AIDS and Human Rights” committee. Later, national organisations, such as the Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe [DAH – German AIDS Service Organisation], also become active. In public discussions, focus turns to the danger that criminal prosecution could undermine the prevention strategy of the Aids-Hilfen [AIDS Service Organisations]. The DAH endorses shared responsibility among sexual partners in dealing with risks of infection (see article on the left, Justiz missachtet Menschenwürde [Judiciary Disregards Human Dignity]). Upon release from prison, the U.S. citizen will be deported. Members of the “AIDS and Human Rights” Committee support him also with this process.

Judiciary Disregards Human Dignity

A report in the magazine Magnus does not contain any indication that the person whose case is before the Federal Supreme Court is Black. The person is also not in the accompanying photograph, which, instead, centres the article’s author. (There may be a person of colour on the right, but this is not the person involved in the lawsuit). This brings us full circle: When the trial opens in September 1987, it takes weeks for the press to report that the defendant is a Black person. The flyer Der Spiegel. Die großen Kampagnen [Der Spiegel. The Big Campaigns] (see above) does mention this fact, but, nevertheless, does not question whether the accusation and case are rooted in racism.

Two Years in Prison for the 23-Year-Old AIDS Harlot

The first known sentencing of an HIV-positive sex worker in West Germany in May 1987 was based on an accusation that the Munich-based individual had continued to work despite her known HIV infection. The case is reported in a series of sensationalist and prejudicial press articles. It is likely that the photos in the newspapers, if the actually are of the person concerned, were printed without her consent. Only selected individual groups criticise and report on the case. Little is known about whether these groups provided concrete support for the woman. After repeated lawsuits, a lawyer is able to get the case dismissed and the prisoner released in November 1988. There is no known information about what became of the woman.

Ein Jahr Bayerischer Maßnahmenkatalog

Bavaria was at the forefront of repressive AIDS policies in the 1980s.
This Banner was part of protests against these restrictive measures.
On the webpage of the Deutsche Aids-Hilfe you can find an Interviews from Axel Schock with Guido Vael, who talks about the situation in Bavarian back than


Germany also saw the criminal prosecution of HIV exposition or HIV transmission. An overview over known cases between 1987 and 2016 can be foundhere

Interview mit BeV StroganoV

Interested in the full interview? Clickhere.

Aktion Jericho

For more information about Aktion Jericho you can find an article written by Hans Peter Hauschild here .

Alf Bold (1946-1993)

The Film scholar Alf Bold (1946-1993) was a programmer and founder of the Arsenal cinema, Berlin, and involved in the Berlin Film Festival Berlinale. Bold was also one of the co-initiators of the gay emancipation group HAW (Homosexual Action West Berlin) in 1971.
Bold, who had lived in New York City, was friends with the two New York photographers Annie Leibowitz (born 1949) and Nan Goldin (born 1953). Both also photo-documented Bold’s progressive AIDS disease. Goldin, for example, took the last photograph of Bold on his deathbed in his Berlin hospital. Bold left the two expressive portraits from Leibovitz’s camera to the Schwules (Gay) Museum during his lifetime.

Jürgen Baldiga

Jürgen Baldiga in his photo studio, amidst the portraits of his friends, pictured among others BeV Stroganov. [It is picture #12 from Aron Neubert’S (b. 1967) series „Wärme…“ [“Warmth which only fire can give us…”] (1991/92)]
The two short-time lovers, long-time friends and passionate photographers had entered into a kind of pact, with Baldiga’s request to Neubert to take a portrait of him every month (starting in October 1991), which was to record his AIDS illness and ultimately his death from AIDS (December 1993) for posterity. In the end, 27 portraits were taken, which Neubert presented in 1996, and which were last shown in their entirety in the “interim permanent exhibition” Tapetenwechsel (“change of scenery”, 2017/18).
From 15 December, they will be displayed in an AIDS-themed exhibition at the MUCEM in Marseille!

Ikarus Passage (aka Thomas Passarge, 1965-1992)

On January 13, 1992, Jürgen Baldiga (1959-1993) noted in his diary:
Icarus died.
Icarus is dead.
Icarus died.
Icarus is no longer
here anymore.
Can’t this stop,
this fucking AIDS.
It’s nothing but
It’s not a bad dream,
it’s a fucking reality.
Beauties become
Cut off.
Wiped away.
Your point is made.

Ovo Maltine (1966-2005) als/as Marlene Dietrich

Ovo Maltine (1966-2005) was – like Melitta Sundström – one of the so-called SchwuZ fags. As one of the iconic West-Berlin “political fags”, she was also very involved in the fight against AIDS, for example in the “Lighthaus” (yes, in this hybrid English/German combination!) hospice movement around BeV Stroganoff, circa 1994/95 (see also her “Pink Triangle” dress under BODIES as well as the TheaterX project under HOPE in this exhibition!)
The Berlin-based photographer Annette Frick (b. 1957) is best known for her impressive b/w photos of the (West) Berlin underground scene in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2003, she presented her FUCK GENDER! exhibition at the SMU.

Manfred Salzgeber (1943-1994)

Manfred Salzgeber (1943-1994) was a cinema enthusiast: he founded (West-) Berlin’s first art house cinema (the BALI in Zehlendorf), was the director of the Panorama section of the Berlinale for many years, one of the initiators of the queer film award of the Berlinale, the Teddy Award. And, above all, he was also the founder of the film distribution company named after him (edition Salzgeber/Salzgeber & Co. Medien), in order to be able to show films with AIDS themes in Germany, including the first feature film: “Buddies” (USA 1985) by Arthur J. Bressan Jr.
Ingo Taubhorn (born 1957) is a photographer whose work revolves much around the themes of homosexuality and family. He has been curator at the House of Photography (Deichtorhallen) in Hamburg since 2006.

Melitta Sundström (1963-1993)

Melitta Sundström was one of the so-called SchwuZ fags and one of the best-known “political fags” in West Berlin (also famous for her singing). A Kreuzberg café is still named in her honour – until 2012, the Schwules (Gay) Museum was accommodated in the back of the same building (as well as the gay community centre SchwuZ).
[A large version of the picture is hanging in the current SchwuZ club location in Berlin-Neukoelln.]

Diamanda Galás (*1955)

The New York singer and AIDS activist (ACT UP New York) Diamanda Galás (b. 1955) often performed in Berlin in the 1980s, where she presented her “AIDS trilogy” Masque of the Red Death, which deals with the suffering and death of AIDS patients. Galás’ concerts were documented by the photographer Petra Gall (1955-2018).
Gall’s estate is stored in the Schwules (Gay) Museum and is currently being digitised. In 2012, the SMU dedicated a photo exhibition to Petra Gall – in combination with Rüdiger Trautsch.

Diamanda Galás, You must be certain of the devil

Between 1986 and 1988, the New York singer and AIDS activist Diamanda Galás (b. 1955) created her trilogy called Masque of the Red Death with the studio albums Divine Punishment, Saint of the Pit and You Must Be Certain of the Devil, dealing with the suffering and dying of AIDS patients. 
You Must Be Certain of the Devil was recorded in 1987 at Berlin’s Hansa recording studio, where, for instance, David Bowie had recorded his Berlin Triology.

Udo Schielke

Udo Schielke (date of birth/death unknown) was a portrait photographer in Braunschweig, later Berlin, working for campaigns of the Aidshilfe in Hannover and photographed his friends, many of which were HIV-positive and suffering from AIDS. He presented their moving portraits in exhibitions such as “hautnah” (skin-deep) in Kassel, for instance. His estate is stored at the SMU.

Portrait Polette (†1989)

Jürgen Baldiga (1959-1993) took the photo of Polette (†1989) the year before her death; it was “up-graded” to this plate portrait in 1991 – in pre-digital times, that was not a piece of cake! Polette – civil name: Rudi Wiegelmann – was one of the iconic West Berlin “political fags” revolving around the SchwuZ club; among others, she was a member of Ladies Neid (German-English play of words) and Las Fenjalas. Polette was one of the co-founders of the care centre H.I.V. e.V., which took care of the needs of AIDS patients. (Information on the plate can be seen in Jasco Viefhues’s short film on the Baldiga archive in the exhibition’s focus area ARCHIVING.)

Private Schnappschüsse anonymer Männer

Both photos – private and anonymous snapshots – were exhibited in the Infektiös exhibition (Infectious, 1992/93) on the “Memento Mori” wall full of portraits of known and unknown people who died of AIDS


A similar, yet larger, photographic reminder of known and anonymous AIDS deaths was also presented in the “Goodbye to Berlin?” exhibition on “100 Years of the German Gay Movement” (1997), i.e., as the final room of the exhibition at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin-Tiergarten.

Roger Lips

The freelance artist and photographer Roger Lips (trained in Essen, active in Cologne) also addressed AIDS in his work and died himself in 1994 as a result of the immunodeficiency disease. His portrait was exhibited in the memento mori room at the end of the SMU exhibition “Goodbye to Berlin? 100 Years of the Gay Movement” (1997) at the Akademie der Künste (Academy of Arts) in Berlin’s Tiergarten disctrict.
The portrait is by Lipp’s executor, the photographer Thomas Michalak (b. 1957). Lipp’s estate rests at the SMU.

Newspaper covers Der Stern and Der Spiegel

Both newspaper covers have in common that they focus on certain population groups, here as so-called “risk groups” – with a distinction between “innocent” (children, haemophiliacs) and allegedly “guilty” “victims” (homosexuals, drug users), which led to stigmatisation and exclusion. The SPIEGEL cover in the early 1990s focuses on famous AIDS deaths – however, Rock Hudson’s AIDS death in 1985, which had a great media impact, had also created a better understanding of so-called homosexual “life-styles” in particular. The STERN cover is a reminiscence of famous STERN covers of the 1970s: “We had an abortion”, and “We are gay…” (which included 2 founding members of Berlin’s Schwules (Gay) Museum).

Photographies by and with Birol Isik (A.D.M.)

Birol Isik is a non-medical practitioner and nurse who worked, among other things, at Aids Danisma Merkezi, a counselling project on HIV/Aids for people with a Turkish or Arab migration history. He was also active in the “Gay International Berlin” as well as SLIB. (In the ARCHIVING section, there is a video interview Birol).
The two photos illustrate his commitment to individual clients and migrant communities as well as political protests, against exclusion.
-“The Gay International” Info booth at the street party “Motzstraßenfest”, Berlin-Schoenberg, in June 1996)
– Demonstration against exclusion („AIDS has many faces“, Berlin-Schoeneberg, Nov. 22, 2000)

„AIDS hat viele Gesichter“

Fun fact: SMU co-founder and curator Andreas Sternweiler is pictured on the green cover of the second edition.


International campaign for World AIDS Day 2002 (slogan: live and let live). The D.A.H. (German AIDS Service Organisation) added a pointed slogan to the German campaign with the Berlin-based singer Joy Denalane: “Denk würdig – Ausgrenzung macht krank” (exclusion makes you sick), relying on a play on words concerning the writing of the German word “denkwürdig” (memorable) and its separation into two words by a red ribbon – as a symbol of solidarity with HIV-infected people and AIDS patients – into “denk” (think) and “würdig” (worthy / respectable) that one can also read in the imperative form “denk würdig”.More information about the poster can also be found here.

Ich habe HIV.

More Information about the poster and the campaign it was part of can be found on the webpage of the Deutschen Aids-Hilfe.

force for change

Schwule Vielfalt

The idea being the poster “Gay Diversity – Gay Solidarity” was to make a point against the discrimination of gay men with HIV/AIDS

Aids hat ein Gesicht: Die Herausforderung sind wir.”

The Deutsche Aids-Hilfe writes about their poster:
“The German slogan for World Aids Day 1991 was “Tackling the Challenge together” – a slogan which definitely requires a modification from the perspective of a self-help organisation.
Hence, the DAH poster for World Aids Day 1991 says “AIDS has a Face: The challenge are we.”
The support the poster advertises for was directed to the AGAV (Arbeitsgemeinschaft ambulante Versorgung/Working Committee Outpatient Care).
The photograph to this poster was already used in a poster for Christopher Street Day (CSD) 1990. Then it illustrativ the subtitle of the slogan “Selbst bewusst schwul – selbst bewusst positiv” (Confidently Gay – Confidently Positive).

Ich mach mein Ding.

The Deutsche Aids-Hilfe describes its poster on their webpage:

Ich will mehr vom Leben.

This poster, titled “I want more from life”, is directed at people living with HIV. It wants to foster emancipation and address discrimination.

Protest & Desire”

Christa Joo Hyun D’Angelo’s video work Protest and Desire (2019) portrays Lillian, who was born in Uganda and lives in Germany. The work demonstrates the extent to which shame, stigma and isolation can be transformed into strength and self-empowerment, and expands the complex and diverse narratives relating to HIV and AIDS activism.
Kindly Supported by >br>

Delight Rental Service, Berlin
Senat für Kultur und Europa, Berlin
Bezirkskulturfonds Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain
Galerie im Turm, Berlin-Friedrichshain
Edited at Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art, Winnipeg Canada


Ziyaret (The Visit/Der Besuch)

The singer Murtaza Elgin (1949-1992) was the first person in Turkey to test HIV positive. In 1985, the case went through the Turkish-language media in Turkey as well as in West Germany. The public, and even close acquaintances and friends, reacted with rejection. When Elgin died of AIDS in 1992, only two people attended his funeral. Fearing his so-called “AIDS body”, the imams who washed his body, wrapped his body up with nylons, they put him in a zinc coffin and buried him in a 2.5 meters tomb covered with limestone powder.For Ziyaret (The Visit), Leman Sevda Darıcıoğlu returned to Murtaza Elgin’s gravesite at Istanbul’s Zincirlikuyu Cemetery to pay him the honour that was withheld at his death.

The Visit was commissioned by EUROPACH for HIVStories: Living Politics exhibition Istanbul curated by Zülfukar Çetin, Agata Dziuban, Friederike Faust, Emily Jay Nicholls, Noora Oertel, Todd Sekuler, Justyna Struzik, Alper Turan and added to the EUROPACH’s digital archive after the exhibition.

English transcription:
Murteza Elgin was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1985. His life was narrated and deciphered under the captions such as ‘’The First Turkish With AIDS’’, he was left alone, he was quarantined by the health ministry of the period for a while.

When he died in 1992, his body was washed with bleach and wrapped in nylon, buried in a 2.5-meter-deep burial filled with lime with a zinc coffin. Only two people attended his funeral.

I’m looking for the tomb of Murtaza Elgin

Let’s see

In 1992…

Let me see the funeral records

In Zincirlikuyu, isn’t it?




There is one Murtaza Ayarlıoğlu?

Murtaza Elgin


Murtaza Elgin, yes! He died in 1992. Go where I say, they show it. It’s in block 28.

Excuse me, where is Gasilhane (a place where the deceased are washed and prepared for burial)?


Are you working here? I am looking for 28th block.

You came to the tomb visit, right?


I will help you.

The road from Gasilhane is divided into three, they said to the far right, but not that one, I guess.

Let me show. Turn left here, continue on the rightmost road. Do you see this road? Continue from there.


Pardon. Where is the number 479?

28th block. Murtaza Elgin

Uncle Hasan, this 428 is down there, right? On the impasse?

Murtaza Elgin

Here is 28th block.

There’s also down, there’s underside.

You’ll go there. I’m coming with you.

Sister, we checked inch by inch, it seems like it’s not here

It is in the records; how couldn’t it be here??


Died in 92

Have you checked the down there?

Where is down? We went the one you took us.

Sister, there is no such tomb, I am telling you.

How come?

There may not be a head stone, then you cannot find it.

But I have checked tombs with no headstones as well, it can’t be where I was looking at.

Can you remember the tomb?


No sister, you can’t find in here. There are many, many tombs without stones, but if you know the neighbouring tombs, then we don’t need to search for.

Hello good day. Archive, right? We searched for a tomb earlier, we just got the number, but we couldn’t find it. The officer here asked us to learn the numbers or names of the grave on the right or left. What? Murtaza Elgin. Ah sorry. Zincirlikuyu! Elgin. El-gin. 28th block, 479 number as they said to us. Murtaza.

I don’t know where did we go after the crossroad but we are in 28th block now.
I see.
Can you send it to me? Thank you. Have a nice day.

Check those ones!

No not that one.

What was his name again?


Elgin, Elgin.

Thank you!

1, 2…3

Which row?

3rd row.

Then, it’s there.

Not in here?

Which row is it?

Third one!



Is this there the third one? Or here?

The eighth block… There are all family graves besides him, and then…

Do you know the name of these families?

No. It does not show the names.

I think it is here.


Found it?

Yes, it is here!

I told you that he must not have a head stone.

Is that one?


Does not have an headstone?

It’s fallen down.

I told so. It has no headstone.

Its headstone is here.

Can we fix it?

Lets see.

Ok, so Murtaza Elgin, 92. But here is all from the past.

I told you. The headstone should have been missing.

Put it like this. Yes. And turn that around.

I will glue it in a minute. Keep it like this for now.

I will take the anchor, and be right back.

We will glue it.

Do you have the glue??

Yes, yes, don’t worry!

I told you, the headstone should have been missing. It’s an old grave, it must have fallen.

May he sleep in heavenly light
Al-fatiha for the soul

What is your relationship with him, sister?

Our acquaintance. Our family friend.

No one took care of the grave.


I will fetch the brush!


Should I hold it for you?

I will glue it.


I will find its slot. I’ll glue it there.

Will you put it like this or open it?

I will open it now… I can do it

I bring the glue; you open the flowers.

Are you done with here?

I am done with flowers yes.

Now you can live with HIV for many years, you can take your medicines, go to your controls and continue your life comfortably.
Deciphering people is a crime, no doctor legally has this right, and when you die as a poz, your body is washed and buried like others.
With love, Leman


The Munich-based GP processed the death from AIDS of his lover (in 1991) and his own AIDS illness in art therapy sessions in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the end, his brain was affected by the consequences of the immunodeficiency disease. Range tore up many of his drawings and paintings and kept the snippets. His case was published anonymously by his therapist: Lisa Niederreiter, Bilder zwischen Leben, Krankheit und Tod künstlerisches Arbeiten und Therapie mit einem an AIDS Erkrankten, Cologne: Claus Richter Verlag, 1995. The SMU takes care of Range’s bequest.

Ikarus Passage (Thomas Passarge, 1965-1992)

In 1985, Thomas Passarge came to Berlin at the age of 20 to study space and aeronautical engineering; in 1986, he learned that he was HIV-positive; in early 1992, he died as a result of AIDS. In the six years in between, he was one of only a few gay men to openly admit to his illness, changed his name to Ikarus Passage and wore his Kaposi Sarcoma spots almost proudly. “I don’t want to hide,” was his credo, allegedly. Consequently, he did not cover them up, but printed the values of his T4 helper cells (and other slogans like “full-blown AIDS”) on T-shirts, which also caught the eye of photographer Ines de Nil, who literally made him the poster boy for DAH campaigns (whose publication he then did not even live to see). The photographer Jürgen Baldiga, who did not hide his illness either, fell for Ikarus’ charm, had sex with him on many occasions (which he described in his diaries) and took many photos of him. This is exactly what Ikarus wanted: that his “AIDS body” should also be desired…

Alf Bold (1946-1993)

Alf Bold (1946-1993) was a cineaste, co-founder of the Arsenal cinema in Berlin in 1970 and involved in the forum of the Berlinale, as well as co-initiator of HAW (Homosexuelle Aktion West-Berlin) in 1971.
Since a longer stay in New York, Bold had been friends with the two New York photographers Annie Leibovitz (born 1949) and Nan Goldin (born 1953), both of whom often photographed him and at the same time recorded his progressive AIDS disease, up to his deathbed photo by Goldin. Bold left the two expressive portraits from Leibovitz to the Schwules (Gay) Museum during his lifetime. This self-confident hospital photo in particular developed into a photographic icon of the Gay Museum, which from Infektiös (“Infectious”, 1992/93) to Intimacy (2020/21) is brought out of the depot every time the subject of “AIDS” is to be illustrated!

Jürgen Baldiga (1959-1993)

The picture is #2 (Nov. 1991) from Aron Neubert’s 9-part portrait series “Jürgen” for the exhibition Infektiös (“Infectious”, 1992/93) which gave rise to the 27-part series “Wärme, die…” (“Warmth, which only fire can give us…”), which Neubert (b. 1967) curated in 1996 for his exhibition of the same name at the Schwules (Gay) Museum. The two short-time lovers, long-time friends and passionate photographers had entered into a kind of pact, with Baldiga’s request to Neubert to take a portrait of him every month (starting in October 1991). Thus, Baldiga’s AIDS illness and ultimately his death from AIDS (December 1993) were recorded for posterity.

Manfred Salzgeber (1943-1994)

Manfred Salzgeber (1943-1994) was a cinema enthusiast: he founded Berlin’s first art house cinema (the BALI), was the director of the Panorama section of the Berlinale for many years, one of the initiators of the queer film award of the Berlinale, the Teddy Award. And, above all, he was also the founder of the film distribution company named after him (edition Salzgeber/Salzgeber & Co. Medien), in order to be able to show films with AIDS themes in Germany, including the first feature film: “Buddies” (USA 1985) by Arthur J. Bressan Jr.


An oversized copy of Baldiga’s self-portrait hangs in the SchwuZ club in Berlin-Neukölln.

Lutz and Martin

Since the 1980s, the artist Martin von Ostrowski (b. 1958) has repeatedly dealt with the theme of gay sexuality in his work. As early as 1988, Ostrowski used sperm as a painting medium. Within a series of oil paintings depicting ejaculations, the artist also wanted to include sperm as a material, first as spray paintings, then for self-portraits and portraits of others, some couples among them. In total, more than thirty paintings were created before the exhibition at the Schwules (Gay) Museum (2008/2009).

Kabinentüre:No Title

The toilet cubicle door (with a „glory hole“), which was honoured at “Fenster zum Klo. Public toilets. Private Affairs” (2017-8), is a symbol of free love in pre-AIDS times and of “cottaging” resp. “tearoom trade”, i.e. sex on public toilets, usually between so-called MSM (Men who have sex with men).
In the context of the exhibition “100 Objects,” (2020) which presented “Pauline’s Hammer,” a work of art that clearly referred to “tearooms” resp. “cottages”, Frede Macioszek (SMU) mentioned the politicised nature resp. political character of public toilets.

Traces (SIDA)

With “Traces (SIDA),” Marc Martin (b. 1971) establishes a connection between his exhibition “Fenster zum Klo. Public toilets. Private Affairs” (2017-8),” (as well as “Les Tasses”, 2019-20), his homage to the “golden era” of “tearooming”/“cottaging”, and “arcHIV”. The emergence of the immunodeficiency disease AIDS left visible traces, for example in the toilet graffiti, which “matter-of-factly” acknowledged the existence of AIDS or were intended to exclude certain groups or propagated practices such as safe(r) sex.

Schwule Ladies

Krista Beinstein (b. 1955) explicitly appropriates a “gay” iconography in many of her works, as exemplified here in a “cottaging” resp. “tearooming” scene. This version of the photo has been shown at Fenster zum Klo (Berlin, 2018) and Les Tasses.LaVallée (Brussels, 2020), by Marc Martin.

Wer will schon gleich als erstes über Aids reden?

In the 1980s, the Swiss Campaign for Safe(r) Sex had, at its core, the safety pin. It stood as a symbol for active, conscious protection of health both during sex and when shooting drugs (needle!). The safety pin functioned as a reminder signal which could easily be placed anywhere.
(The pack is displayed by courtesy of Mario Russo, Berlin.)

verkehrt gehörlos

Conceived by the artist Gunter Puttridge-Reignard (1960-2008), civil name: Gunter Trube. The sign performer and poet was an important activist in the deaf movement: in 1985 he founded the association verkehrt gehörlos (inverted deaf), the first organisation of queer deaf people in the FRG; and in 1996 he developed a brochure for deaf gays together with the Deutsche Aidshilfe (DAH), because most of the materials of the AIDS aid organisations were not oriented towards the needs of deaf people; they did not take into account that German sign language is a language and communication system of its own. This new brochure contained information about HIV/AIDS for the deaf community in simple written language, combined with photos of sign language.

Leonore Nagel & Camilla Vetters have developed an enlarged online version of this brochure, which can be found here: http://www.kunstoderaufklaerung.de

„Hol dir einen runter. Mastur-Biere“

The New York-based visual artist Marlene McCarty was a member of the AIDS activist collective Gran Fury, which staged public interventions in which the artists used the language of art and advertising. On the occasion of the World Aids Conference in Berlin in June 1993, exhibitions and various actions (AIDS PROJECTS) were staged in Berlin’s urban space and at the NGBK as part of an accompanying cultural festival (AIDS Culture – Cultural Aids), in which McCarty participated with her work from the previous year, which dealt playfully with the concept of safer sex in the form of beer mats, where the German plural “Biere” (“beers”) also appears in the imperative “Masturbiere!” (“masturbate”). In her leaflet, McCarty deals with the terms. On the other side of the beer mat, one finds a German synonym: “Jerk off” (literally, “to bring down an erection”).

Selbstbewußt schwul – selbstbewußt behindert

“Expanding the agency of individuals is at the heart of D.A.H.’s prevention work for gay and bisexual men…. disabled gay men…may be examples of “subgroups” of the gay community who are generally assumed to have lower agency…. Strengthening the identity and self-esteem not only of gay men in general, but especially of those from the “subgroups”, is a priority task of the gay rights department.”
(From the 1993/1994 annual report of the Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe e.V. on the poster campaign, p. 19)

Cruisingpack/Cruising pack

In 1999, Birol Isik, who worked among other things at Aids Danisma Merkezi, a counselling project on HIV/Aids for people with a Turkish or an Arab background, made “second hand condoms” with pupils. The seminar with Gladt and Slib: (Schwule und Lesben in Berlin e.V., as successor to Schwule Internationale e.V.) was based on the idea of recycling, also in the figurative sense that HIV/Aids prevention for migrants had also been “second hand,” i.e. “second choice.”.

„Das Freudentuch der verlorenen Unschuld“/“The Joy Cloth of Lost Innocence”

Diary entries by Jürgen Baldiga:


On Saturday, sex in all variations with Andreas. The joy cloth of lost innocence: urine, poppers, sperm, Crisco, vomit, Southern Comfort and so on. Never had such hard sex before. However, I liked it. From fist-fuck to bowel pissing. Strokes. Throat-fucking until he puked. This cloth, I’ll put it on display at Infektiös (Infectious). Yeah yeah, a fuck for art’s sake.


Yesterday, I handed in almost everything for the exhibition. (…) And to top it off, a cloth on which I enjoyed hard sex.


“Souvenir” contains Jürgen Baldiga’s removed Kaposi sarcoma, which he had cut out of the skin, cast in resin and exhibited in the “Infektiös” exhibition (“Infectious”, 1992/93).

Three entries on this artwork from Baldiga’s diary:

poured the kaposi in resin

will make a monstrance out of it

the whole object will/should shine/be
pure kitsch

it’s a part of me.


Today, I’m handing in my first object for the Infektiös (“Infectious”) exhibition at the Schwules (Gay) Museum. Curious about what they’ll say. 

Jürgen Baldiga.

September ’92.


kaposi sarcoma/wood

size 34 cm

weight 5,5 kg


Yesterday I handed in almost everything for the exhibition. Mr Baldiga is exhibiting his Kaposi, (…)

Sternweiler & Wojnarowicz

According to Andreas Sternweiler, the four exhibited New York artists (and ACT UP activists) González-Torres (1957-1996), Lindell (b. 1956), Moffett (b. 1955), and Wojnarowicz were accommodated in private homes – at the request of and through the mediation of curator Frank Wagner; for example, by the co-founders of the Schwules Museum, Wolfgang Theis (Gonzalez-Torres) and Andreas Sternweiler (Wojnarowicz). Cf. also Cynthia Carr’s biography The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz (2012): “(…) in Berlin where he was in a group show, he stayed for three days with Sternweiler, cofounder of the Schwules Museum (…).”

Die Krankheit hat mir mehr gegeben als genommen

In her interview Birgit describes the emotional rollercoaster after the diagnosis „HIV positive“ and the barriers and the disruptions which people living with HIV often have to endure. At the same time she describes the „Principle of Hope“, which is fundamental and allowed her to live on despite challenging circumstances as well as allows her to look forward, even grow.Birgit is just one example for „long-term survivors“. The term became more widely used in the late 1980s when it was reported that some people living with HIV survived longer than was expected, even though no medication was available yet. The reasons for that were still unknown.

Michael Callen (1955-1993), prominent AIDS activist in the US and founder of several important AIDS organizations, wrote „Surviving AIDS“ (1991), one of the first book about long-term survivors. For the book he interviews other long-term survivors in the hope of finding a pattern. According to him a requirement for survival seems to be a celebration of life, having meaning in one’s life – or finding it. His own survival he famously attributed to „luck, classic Coke, and the love of a good man“.


Over the years a whole bunch of books, biographies and scientific studies concerning the life of long-term survivors were published.In this period one can observe also a shift of the meaning of the term survival. Originally understood in medical teams, the idea expanded in the mid-1990s and questions arose if there is something like an „AIDS survivor syndrome“. The focus here lies on the survivors, the ones who made it, while they saw dozens or sometimes even hundreds around them perish. Sporadically it was asked if this is also a thing for people who are HIV negative. With the introduction of medication in the mid-1990s the debate get smaller, only to come back slowly in the early 2010s. The book from Perry Halkitis was one of the first new studies in academia concerning the topic of „HIV/AIDS long-term survivors“ (usually imagined as gay men) and how they deal with the experience of having lived through the pandemic.

Besides the scientific perspective, there were also always reports from HIV positive people themselves. The library of the Schwules Museum has small collection, even though it has to be said that this is mainly focused on the experiences of white, gay men from Europe and North America. This is due to the origin of the museum and the fact that donations to the museum most often come from this community, but also related to the question which people actually have access to resources and opportunities to write down their perspectives and experience for others. A rather rare find in our library is the book by Miriam Anyongo. In her book, published 1997, she describes her experience of moving from Africa to Europe, where she fell in love with a man from Germany and followed him there. In Germany she and her husband were diagnosed with HIV. While her husband died, did she survive, became a medical professional, and can write her story, coming from a female, a Black, as well as a non-european perspective. Her writing is also explicitly directed at others and tries to give them hope.

Videos: „What is Aids Survivor Syndrome?“ + Ballade ohne Gummi

„What is Aids Survivor Syndrome?“„What is Aids Survivor Syndrome“ by „Let’s Kick ASS (Aids Survivor Syndrome” lets self-identified „HIV/AIDS Long-Term Survivors“ tell their experiences and which effect that has and had on their life. The organisation, founded 2013 in San Francisco by Tez Anderson, describes itself as a „grassroots movement“ by, with and for „survivors“. Let’s Kick ASS founded community groups, organises events, and tries to get more attention for their experiences.
For this they also declared June 5th as „HIV/AIDS Long-Term Survivor Awareness Day“.
While the organisation arose in 2013 in newly emerging debate about survival in the US, is the debate not yet very present in Germany. The journalist Dirk Ludigs tries to draw attention to it for some time now and wrote about it in the online magazine of the Deutsche Aids-Hilfe. Besides a report of this own experiences, there is also an interview with Tez Anderson as well as more articles about the wider topic.

Ballade ohne Gummi

The 2015 ballad from Fabienne du Neckar, performed on Berlin’s many stages, is meant as a protest song for PreP, sung to the melody of the song „Laut“ by Rosenstolz. Fabienne du Neckar knew of PreP before, but a talk by the activist and journalist Nicholas Feustel at the Polymorphia of Patsy L’Amour LaLove at Berlin’s SchwuZ stirred her to become active herself. At this point in time PreP was relatively new in Germany and not yet freely available in the country other than through expensive and not necessarily legal means. The song, which addresses the need for affordable PreP for all, is also tackling the complex interaction of „safer sex“ with the heteronormativity and gay sexuality. Beneath the song lies also the entanglement of HIV/AIDS with male-male sexuality in Western Europe and North America, where male-male sexuality is still often accompanied with a very present threat of HIV infection. Affordable PreP can be liberating and make sexuality without fear more available.
Since 2019 PreP is available through your health insurance in Germany.

艾滋徒步 China Aids Walk

2013 saw the China Aids Walk happen already for the second time. The Aids walk wants to raise money, mobilise civil society and bring more attention to HIV/AIDS. They are inspired by examples from the US; where „walks“ have a longer tradition as a tool for fundraising and raised millions of Dollars for HIV/AIDS.
The shirt itself is one of few examples in the HIV collection of the museum from outside of Europe or North America. Similar to the buttons and ribbons below, one of which is also from the walk, symbolised the shirt how types of actions and symbols in the context of HIV/AIDS spread successfully all over the world, but are also adapted to local contexts.
More information about the China Aids Walk can be found when clicking this

AIDS 1969

Another example for the use of the arts to bring attention to HIV/AIDS and specific themes in it, are stickers. They are easy to spread by quickly putting them on all kinds of surfaces, bringing topics to the public’s attention, can confuse and provoke and raise questions.
The sticker here was designed by Theodore (ted) Kerr, a canadian artist and activist living in the US. AIDS 1969 is a result of a research project by the artist on Robert Rayford, a Black teenager from St. Louis, Missouri. Robert Rayford is alleged to be the first known case of AIDS in the US. The death of Robert Rayford occurred more than a decade before the famous 1981 article in the New York Times got published, which often serves as the beginning of AIDS history in the US (and worldwide). Theodore (ted) Kerr uses the famous St. Louis Arc and the seemingly cryptic 1969 to irritate and question our cultural assumptions about HIV history.Besides the sticker an essay by the artist is also one of the results of this longer research. The essay addresses questions of race, HIV history and how this history is told. Here a small excerpt:
„The story we tell about AIDS in America is that the United States government failed to address it due to the pervasive homophobia of the Reagan administration. True. What is also true is that the virus that came to be known as HIV had been circulating in other minoritized communities—communities of color, people who do drugs, and those living in poverty and without housing—long before it was noticed in homosexuals in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. We don’t know how to tell the history of AIDS before AIDS because we don’t know it yet and we don’t know how to hear and share what we do know. Instead, we keep repeating the history we think we know to be true, the one that starts in 1981.“

Poster Condoman + Fight Fear with Facts

Posters are a widespread communication tool, especially also for public organisations. Well-known in Germany are the poster campaigns by the Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung (Federal Centre for Health Education), which want to spread knowledge as well as awareness. The hope is to use this simple, visually-appealing medium to gain access to the wider population.The use of posters was not a uniquely German thing, though, but a global phenomenon as the exhibition „Aids- based on a true story“ (2015-2016) at the Dresden Hygiene Museum attests, which speaks even of an „flood of images“. Posters can have very varying functions and target groups.

The example of „Condoman“ points to the hope of reaching communities, which are traditionally more distant to the state and official healthcare system due to bad experiences with it and missing resources. Condoman is one of the most well-known posters on sexual education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia.

Another well-known example of HIV/AIDS prevention in Australia was the clip of the Grim Reaper, which mostly instilled even more fear of HIV/AIDS and people living with it, making it rather not very successful in hindsight. Other messaging seems to be more successful. Instead of instilling fear, education works better – fear shall be fought with facts.
Analysing the experiences and methods of HIV/AIDS prevention, these campaigns might serve as good basis for a modern and effective public health work in times of Corona.

Solidarity of the Unreasonable

The first demonstration under the slogan „Solidarity of the Unreasonable“ was a reaction to comments made by the mayor of Frankfurt/Main, Wolfram Brück (CDU). People of several heavily affected communities came together in response to him to join hands and support each other. Through cross-organisational support they wanted to improve living conditions for all people living with HIV and counter oppressive political initiatives. This was based on the assumption that acting as singular groups keeps one weak and the hope that one’s political clout increases through joint activism.
The poster here is not a poster for the first demonstration in 1988, but from one of the following years where the slogan found continued use. (The poster for the 1988 demonstration can be found in the „Activism“ section.)More information about the Solidarity of the Unreasonable can be found online. Available there is also a digitalised book containing the speeches held at the first demonstration. People who prefer paper can find it in the library of the museum as well.

ACT OUT! The Spirits, that called us
HIV/AIDS led to an explosion of artistic work dealing about the virus and its consequences. In particular the seeming lack of meaning of the pandemic, where an invisible virus plays the main part, challenged people to find meaning in it through the arts.This continues until today and offers continuous starting points to grapple with the history of HIV and health topics in general.

The theatre project „ACT OUT! The spirits, that called us“ by the Next Generation Ensemble is a product of a cooperation between Theater X and the Schwules Museum. The members of the ensemble asked themselves: „Who’s health matters and who’s doesn’t?“ Based on their own experiences in the health care system and with the Corona pandemic they investigate discrimination of queer people as well as sexism and racism in the health care system. During the creation of the play they were focused on their own lived reality today as well as in the future. How is solidarity organised here as well as globally nowadays? What can be learned from previous struggles? For this they researched in the archive of the Schwules Museum, met with AIDS activists, and archive their own artistic work as youth culture in the times of a pandemic.

A recording of the play can be found on Youtube. An extract of it can also be seen on one of the screens in the „archiving“ section.

By & with: Nele Becker, Sam. Davis, Nadir Eiffler, Ozan Erkan, Marie Opitz,  Ismael Schönpflug, Serina Secici, David Thiery & Lumo Quinkert
Direction: Annika Füser
Dramaturgy: Gwen Lesmeister
Costume & stage: Elisa Nelvand & Selina Thylmann
Team Schwules Museum: Sandra Ortmann & Tabesch Mehrabi


The donation piggy Adele from the estate of Ovo Maltine was used from 1994 onwards by a group of activists around the Tunten (political drag queens) Ovo Maltine and BeV StroganoV to collect donations for the idea of a „Lighthouse“. The Lighthouse Initiative was an attempt to establish a hospice for people with AIDS in Berlin. The name Adele comes from the Swabian version of „Adé“ (farewell) – something which was also said to the dying.The idea of the Lighthouse in Berlin came about at the end of the 1980s and led to the short squatting of an abandoned hospital in the Methfesselstraße in Berlin-Kreuzberg in 1989. This squatting serves also a anchor point for the Theater X project, of which one can also see the pictures and the boots.

The initiate around Ovo Maltine and BeV StroganoV was active for several years and founded the association „Big Spender e.V.“ to make the collection and distribution of donations easier. They distributed flyers at shows, collected money, organised events and actions like the „Gehen für’s Leben“ Walk for Life 1995, there were charity events in theatres as well as fashion shows, for example at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin and in Schmidts Tivoli in Hamburg.

The Lighthouse itself was never realized unfortunately. Costs were too high and politicians too sceptical. While showing some openness inbetween, they never supported the initiative enough to make it eventually happen.

A.D.M. (Aids Danışma Merkezi)

Aids Danışma Merkezi, translating as AIDS counselling service from Turkish, was founded as a pilot project to gain better access to Turkish-speaking Berliners. The work of A.D.M. was diverse: from health and emancipatory education to the training community members to act as multipliers, from street work to PR and counselling. Later on A.D.M. extended its services to also include other languages like Arabic.Besides A.D.M. existed also other initiatives to reach the non-germanspeaking population. Counselling and education by members of the community itself improves access to prevention and makes counselling easier, thereby compensating at least partially for deficits of the health care system.

An interview with Birol Isik, who has been active at A.D.M. for a long time, can be found online on the homepage of the Schwules Museum.

GDR: huge run on the Charité

In comparison to West Germany there were relatively few people with HIV in the GDR. From the mid-1980s onwards HIV/AIDS became more openly discussed in the GDR and prevention work became more prevalent, the virus became a topic in school and public education was initiated. The thirst of knowledge of people in the GDR was high, as can be seen by the huge interest in an educational event at the Berlin Charité hospital.
Niels Sönnichsen shaped GDR AIDS policies through his work as counsellor to the state, which focused on (non-anonymous) tests and contact tracing. State educational material were often supplemented by gay activists who published their own materials and did their own care initiatives.

Pre-Exposure-Prophylaxis (PreP)

In the early 2010s it became clear that HIV medication can not just tread already infected people, but could also be used to prevent an infection. Shortly afterwards PreP became part of the HIV prevention toolbox – when people actually have access to it. This is not always the case, especially marginalised groups often have bigger difficulties to gain access. Different initiatives like the Love Lazers had been founded to do educational work as well as create political pressure. There were also networks founded who operated in legal grey areas and helped people who wanted to import PreP medication from abroad. Alternatively, there were a few pharmacies where one could get the medication when paying for it oneself. This was very expensive, though, as the pharma industry makes good profits with the dedication and tries to prevent generics.
Since 2019 PreP can be paid for by health insurance: a success by political activists as well as performers like Fabienne du Neckar, who tried to call for affordable PreP through her artistic work.PreP seems still especially common among gay men, who are often also the focus of research on it. Organizsations like the Aids-Hilfen attempt increasingly also to reach other communities and educate them about PreP. Here one can find an interview with Miriam*, who talks about using PreP as a woman.

Besides the medical protection PreP offers, there is another important effect: male-male sexuality is still often linked to the fear of HIV. PreP offers to life the mental burden, since it empowers people to take HIV prevention into their own hands and helps to decouple sexuality from the mental burden of the fear of HIV/AIDS.

Imagine HIV is harmless

From the beginning on HIV/AIDS also saw the hope for alternative explanations and treatments. In particular in the times before there were effective drugs, people put a lot of hope into potential miracle cures. Especially the 1980s and early 1990s saw a huge spectrum of explanations what might cause AIDS. Even when more scientific knowledge became available, this knowledge was (and still is) often discounted and even denied.AIDS denialists were very active, even produced the movie „Die Aids-Rebellen“ (The AIDS Rebels, direction: Fritz Poppenberg), who denies the link between virus and AIDS, even got state funding for it. Other activists produced leaflets and even shows for open channels on local TV stations and radio.

Some of that can also be found in the museum’s archive. There are books in the library, but also other items like the letters addressed to the museum, who hoped to spread their ideas.

While their claims have been widely disproven and don’t play much of a role anymore in public and community discussions, some of the activists are still active even today. In Corona times in particular they hope to find opportunities to spread their claims and offer alternative explanation – for Corona as well as for HIV/AIDS.

These are not the only circles they are often active in, though. Two of the most active AIDS denialists, Kawi Schneider and Peter Schmidt, are part of the Reichsbürgerbewegung, a movement denying the existence of the German state and pretending that the German Reich still exists. Schmidt and Schneider also declared themselves supporters of the theory that the Nazis fled to Antarctica and continue to exist there. Including Flugscheiben, UFO-like air vessels.

Berlin Patient

Spectacular cases like the „Berlin Patient“ become known worldwide and spread hope that a cure for HIV can be found. Timothy Ray Brown, who died from cancer in 2020, was seen as the first person verifiably cured from HIV. Today he is not the only known case, but probably still the most well-known.While the case of Brown became world famous, the hopes it raised had to be disappointed again and again. Once in a while there are news of potential cures, but until today no cure could be presented to the world’s public. Timothy Ray Brown’s case can therefore be seen as somewhat of a sour joy – it gives hope, but at the same time can the often disappointed hopes also be a burden.

The Apocalypse has been canceled

That fear of a wide spread of the virus in the general population did not become true, which was a relief for a big part of the public. In the end, already marginalised groups were the ones affected.
This course of the pandemic with relatively few cases in Germany in comparison to other countries, as well as the development of effective drugs, led to decreased attention for HIV/AIDS in the public eye. At the same time led the small spread in the general population to the point where existing stereotypes did not become challenged much and the reproduction of racist, homophobic, etc. images and assumptions could continue unhindered. More strongly affected groups had and still have to struggle for attention and encounter prejudice. At the same time is the AIDS crisis not over – many people worldwide become infected every day, out of which many do not have proper access to treatment. The apocalypse has been cancelled only for certain parts of the world – the ones who can afford it.

Wie Jakob die Zeit verlor [How Jakob lost the time

The novel by Jan Stressenreuter (1961-2018) deals with experience of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and its impact until today. He addresses the trauma of the ones who survived and the still existing difficulty to cope and speak about it. With this he was one of the first novels in the German-speaking world who explicitly took up this issue.The fact that this novels like this get published nowadays points to how coming to terms with the experiences of the 1980s and 1990s becomes increasingly possible after years of silence, something which has been happening in the US already for a while longer.

„Longer lives are not desirable“

Not everyone hoped for survival and a good life for people living with HIV. The lawyer Manfred Bruns (1934-2019), who became the spokesperson for the German Lesbian and Gay Association, talks in this articles about epidemiologists whose hopes for a quick passing crates with the hope for survival of people with HIV.
Hopes are often ambigious, therefore: What are hopes for some people, are curses for others.

Activist suitcase

At the end, we decided not to show the suitcase which contains, among others, Andreas Salmen’s “street fighter (leather) jacket” as well as an activist’s “parade waistcoat”. It is a gift from Matthias Wienold, a physician and AIDS activist. Wienold is co-editor of the AIDS Pocket Dictionary (1996), project manager of the Migrant AIDS Project (MAP) in Hanover (2008), long-time Head of Department Medicine & Health Policy, Deutsche Aidshilfe e.V. and founding member of the European AIDS Treatment Group.

„Straßenkämpferjacke“/Street Fighter Jacket

Leather jacket, from the inheritance of Andreas Salmen, bought by him in London as his “street fighter jacket” in the 1991 and worn to an ACT UP Die-In. It was kept by Matthias Wienold (worn at other acts as a sign of resistance), and given to him by Salmen’s partner Michael Fischer after his death (13 February 1992; Fischer died 4 weeks later, at the end of March).

The political scientist Andreas Salmen was a journalist and AIDS activist in Berlin: co-founder of ACT UP Berlin, head of the “Stop AIDS” project, co-founder of the then Berlin gay mag Siegessäule, collaborator for the taz journal and the magnus magazine, critical companion of the Aidshilfe movement, co-author of AIDS-Prävention (together with Rolf Rosenbrock) as well as author of the volume ACT-UP: Feuer unterm Arsch (Fire under the butt) of the AIDS-FORUM DAH series. On 13 February 1992, Salmen died as a result of AIDS.

His photo in the portrait wall in the FACES section hung on the memento mori wall in the SMU’s Infectious exhibition (1992/93).


„Parade waistcoat” of an AIDS activist from the collection of Matthias Wienold. Collection of buttons from different organisations. Also pins (two flags) from a trip to Africa in the company of Federal Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in 2001 (as AIDS expert in the scientific accompanying team, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda).
Additionally: Rare pins from Hanover and Expo 2000 (motifs: Nicki de Saint-Phalle). Keith Haring buttons from the legacy of Andreas Salmen. ACT UP buttons from 1989 (English) and 1990 (German). Coming Out at Work sticker from Aktion mit Schwulem Forum Niedersachsen in Hanover. The “parade waistcoat” was worn at Pride Parades (“Christopher Street Days”) and other public demonstrations (e.g., at AIDS congresses).

Rosa Dreieck (“Lighthaus”)/Pink Triangle (“Lighthouse”)

Ovo Maltine (1966-2005) was – like Melitta Sundström – one of the so-called SchwuZ fags. As one of the iconic West-Berlin “political fags”, she was also very involved in the fight against AIDS, for example in the “Lighthaus” (in this hybrid English/German combination!) hospice movement around BeV Stroganoff, circa 1994/95 (see also her “Pink Triangle” dress under BODIES as well as the TheaterX project under HOPE as well as ARCHIVING in this exhibition!)

The Berlin-based photographer Annette Frick (b. 1957) is best known for her impressive b/w photos of the (West) Berlin underground scene in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2003, she presented her FUCK GENDER! exhibition at the SMU.