These '90s Portraits of People With AIDS Are One Reminder of Why We Observe World AIDS Day

These '90s Portraits of People With AIDS Are One Reminder of Why We Observe World AIDS Day

The overwhelming reverence and attention afforded to World AIDS Day in 2015 can make it easy to forget just how alienating the syndrome was, even within the lifetime of the average Millennial. 

Photographers Saul Bromberger and Sandra Hoover documented Americans suffering from the epidemic from 1992-95, well before a stable course of treatment was in reach.

They photographed patients at Bailey-Boushay House in Washington state, opened in 1992, described as "first new nursing care residence and day health program in America for HIV/AIDS patients" on the photographers' website

"Our purposes were to humanize AIDS, to compel the viewer to say 'this could be me,' and to educate those who did not see the disease and its victims face to face; and to show the dignity and loving care that the B.B.H. community provided to those living with AIDS in their final stages of life," the pair wrote on the photography subreddit

Initially, Bromberger and Hoover were hired by Virginia Mason Medical Center for one week for the opening of B.B.H., they told Mother Jones last year. However, the relationships they fostered with everyone they met there — patients, families of patients, employees — meant a weeklong project turned into a yearslong project. 

A disease widely referred to as the "gay plague" in the 1980s invariably transformed into an epidemic as it primarily affected a then-stigmatized minority. Ronald Reagan's White House press secretary routinely laughed at AIDS-related questions during press conferences. 

These images remind the world how far we've come and, when collectively ignored, of the devastating havoc the virus can wreak on ordinary lives. 

"I'd never make it through the night without him...If it hadn't been for Jimmy I might have died a long time ago. We've been together for five years, and I've been sick for three of those years. He takes good care of me," Bill Blackmar said of his partner Jim Schmidt, according to the photographers' interview with "Mother Jones."
Source: Saul Bromberger Sandra Hoover Photography

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The photographers told "Mother Jones" in 2014 this picture shows Ida Rose crying over her dying son, Joel. ""It's the nightmare of every Jewish mother for her son to die before her...I just want to go before him, is their anything wrong with that? Is there anything wrong with that?" she said.
Source: Saul Bromberger Sandra Hoover Photography

See the entire collection here