A message worth repeating: Is it time to reprise the campaigning Aids posters and ads of the early years?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The number of patients in the UK being treated for Aids-related illnesses has trebled in a decade.

It was the mid-1980s, and the spectre of Aids loomed large. As the mysterious, incurable syndrome gradually began to affect more and more people, a series of bold national campaigns forced awareness on the public. From the famous "Don't Die of Ignorance" adverts to Benetton's collage of patient faces, the message was clear: unprotected sex could cause HIV.

Nearly 30 years on and there are calls for such boundary-breaking ads to be commissioned once again. Since the heady days of the Eighties and Nineties, the public mood has relaxed; Aids increasingly seemed, in Europe at least, to be a thing of the past.

Antiretroviral therapy has meant that fewer people were dying, and the scale of the African epidemic dwarfed our own experience. But complacency has come at a cost. In the past decade, the number of people in the UK being treated for Aids-related illnesses has trebled. It is estimated that by next year, almost 100,000 people will be HIV-positive. The burden on the health service is, inevitably, enormous: the cost of managing the condition has gone from £500m in 2006-07 to £760m in 2009-10.

So what is it that makes a successful awareness-raiser? During the 1990s, clothing company Benetton ran a series of ads designed to shock – including a portrait of the dying Aids activist David Kirby with his family. The results were both memorable and engaging.

Toto Ellis is strategy director of TBWA\London, the agency that dreamt up Don't Die of Ignorance. "It's about capturing the imagination," he explains. "Finding a clever, creative vehicle for a serious message. People are saturated with charities and big issues, so you need to cut through that."

Don't Die of Ignorance was a classic example of lateral thinking: it didn't just point out the obvious, that Aids kills. Instead, it personalised the message: your own ignorance could be the death of you – an infinitely more relatable threat than a then-mysterious disease.

Time for a reminder?

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

    Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

    £24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

    Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

    Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there