A man lies down on the AIDS quilt during the 1993 gay and lesbian march on Washington.
HIV/AIDS activist David Kirby on his deathbed: “the picture that changed the face of AIDS”, April 1990.
This is the photo of David Kirby on his death bed, taken by journalism student Therese Frare. The photo quickly became the one photograph most powerfully identified with the HIV/AIDS epidemic that, by then, had seen millions of people infected around the world.
David Kirby was born and raised in a small town in Ohio. As a gay activist he learned in the late Eighties (while he was estranged from his family) that he had contracted HIV. Afthe he made a name for himself as an HIV/AIDS activist, he got in touch with his parents and asked if he could come home to die. The Kirbys welcomed their son back.
While a patient at the Pater Noster hospice, Kirby established a relationship with Frare. Frare was at Pater Noster shadowing a caregiver named Peta, who was providing care to Kirby. Peta, who self-identified as transgender, was also HIV positive and formed a strong bond of trust with Kirby and his family. Because of the relationship between Peta and Frare, Kirby became familiar with Frare. He said that Frare could photograph him in his declining condition, as long as the pictures would not be used for profit.
Frare’s photograph of David’s family comforting him in the hour of his death earned accolades, including a World Press Photo Award, when published in LIFE. The photo became notorious two years later when Benetton used a colorized version of the photo in an advertising campaign, with the permission of Kirby’s family, who felt that its use would show the devastating effects of AIDS.
Fallout from the campaign came from many sources, including the Catholic Church which felt that the image was an inappropriate allusion to the historical imagery of the Virgin Mary cradling Jesus Christ after the crucifixion.
This is the last picture taken of Freddy Mercury in 1991, before he died of bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS.
The story behind the picture of a Harvard student with Aids is hugged by his parents.