About the archive

The Face of AIDS Film Archive is an online film archive consisting of almost 800 hours of documentary film material about the global HIV and AIDS epidemic. The archive is based at Karolinska Institutet University Library in Stockholm, Sweden. The largest part of the collection consists of film director Staffan Hildebrand’s documentation of the AIDS epidemic from 1986 onwards. The archive also contains contributions from researchers, activists and others involved in the HIV response. Online exhibitions with essays and selected films on specific themes are regularly published on the website. The “Face of AIDS Timeline 1981-2017” with historic milestones and stories from the archive can be used for education, and customized for different needs on request.

Short film showing an introduction to the archive. Duration: 6:50 min

Read more about the Face of AIDS Film Archive and how to access it (pdf)

The origins of The Face of AIDS Film Archive

The first steps to what would become The Face of AIDS Film Archive were taken in 1987, when then-Vice Chancellor at Karolinska Institutet Hans Wigzell gave film maker Staffan Hildebrand the commission to do the opening film for the Fourth International AIDS Conference, to be held in Stockholm in 1988. The commission also included documenting the HIV global spread and its effects on society for a future film archive. This project was supposed to last for 30 years, and Hildebrand would alongside his documentary films gather as much footage as possible with the archive in mind.

Since then, Hildebrand has made films for fifty AIDS conferences, and produced about 700 hours of footage from more than forty countries. The archive includes complete documentaries as well as unedited raw materials. Hildebrand has interviewed scientists, AIDS activists, people living with HIV, drug users, sex workers, and many others with experience of HIV and AIDS. He has filmed in laboratories and at conferences, in hospitals and in the streets. Taken together, the archive is a unique visual history of a global epidemic.

In the spring of 2013, all the films were digitized, and on the 18th September of the same year the entire archive was handed over to Karolinska Institutet.

Interview with Staffan Hildebrand in February 2015 on the background of the archive. Duration: 6:30 min



One way of making sense of this large collection of film material is to broadly categorize it.
We are working with a list of categories used to describe and collect the videos. The categories indicate the themes of the films. Each film can belong to a maximum of three categories.

Here are descriptions for each of the categories and how we apply them:

  • Treatment and Care
    Treatment and care of HIV and AIDS patients. Interviews in hospitals, conversations between patients and physicians / therapists, medication.
  • Personal Stories
    Biographical and in-depth interviews with people working with or having other experiences of HIV and AIDS. The interviewees tell their own stories, and expresses personal thoughts and reflections, instead of representing the scientific community, an agency or organization.
  • Science/Research
    Scientific lectures, visits to laboratories, interviews with scientists about the research on HIV and AIDS.
  • Activism & NGO:s
    Interviews and reports on movements and individuals who seek to influence political decisions about the AIDS epidemic (free syringes and care, distribution of antiretroviral drugs, etc.), or arrange events to commemorate the victims of the disease (such as "AIDS quilts").
  • Key Populations:
    • Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM)
      Films with focus on the spread of HIV among men who have sex with men. Also reports from gay clubs, gay neighborhoods and so on.
    • People Who Inject Drugs (PWID)
      Films with focus on the the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users, and social issues related to this group.
    • Sex Workers
      Films with focus on the spread of HIV among sex workers. Also reports from brothels, street prostitution, strip clubs and so on.
    • Transgender People
      Films with focus on the spread of HIV among transgender people, and social issues related to this group.


  • Women and AIDS
    Films with focus on the spread of HIV among women, and reports on the worldwide situation for women. Also feminism and gender discrimination.
  • Youth
    Films on youth and AIDS: interviews with young people, school visits, education and information campaigns aimed at young people, etc.
  • HIV and AIDS History
    Films with a historical perspective on the AIDS epidemic.
  • Stigma
    Films on negative attitudes, abuse and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV or AIDS. Also homophobia and other prejudices.
  • Health Policy
    Interviews with politicians, policy makers and officials on health policy and global/national/local strategies in the HIV and AIDS response.
  • Conferences
    Films from conferences, interviews, panel discussions, lectures, scenes from exhibition booths, performances, etc.
  • Uncategorized
    Raw footage, cutaways, unedited street scenes, etc.

MeSH Terms and Keywords

The Face of AIDS Film Archive (FoA) is indexed with terms from Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), the controlled vocabulary thesaurus produced by The National Library of Medicine (NLM), and also with free keywords for terms not covered by MeSH. FoA only uses MeSH Main Heading Terms, not subheadings. The keywords describe the content of the films, and index both what is shown and said in interviews, conversations, cutaways, etc.

People and Organization

The heading "People" specifies persons appearing, as well as persons mentioned in the films. The heading "Organization" specifies which organization the interviewee represent, and the organizations discussed in the films.

Recurring Questions

Staffan Hildebrand and his team often return to certain questions and discussions in their interviews. Here are a few examples of some of these issues and how they have been indexed:

”How can you change the power structure between men and women?”
MeSH: Sexism

“Are you an optimist?” / "What do you think about the future?"
Keyword: Future Perspectives

“Can sexual behavior change?”
MeSH: Sexual Behavior

“What is the origin of AIDS”?
Keyword: HIV and AIDS Origin

“There is a lot of discussion about ending AIDS. As a scientist, how do you see it?”
Keyword / MeSH: Ending AIDS / Disease Eradication

“How did you react when you heard that you were HIV positive?”
MeSH: Life Change Events

Question for person living with HIV if he/she is  happy or sad, hopeful or depressed:
MeSH: Attitude to Health

“Do you think that AIDS is an answer from Nature?” (and other questions on Man’s relation to Nature)
MeSH: Nature

Follow-Up Interviews

From 2011 and onwards, Staffan Hildebrand has made a series of follow-up interviews with people he met and filmed years before. In these interviews, the interviewees describe their reactions on seeing the old film clips, and comment on what has happened since then.  The follow-up films are marked as “Follow-Up Interview”.

Terms for general use

The material in the Face of AIDS Film Archive is protected by Swedish copyright legislation.

On publication or other public presentation the intellectual property rights of the authors shall always be respected, and the support obtained from KI through access to the Face of AIDS Film Archive, shall be acknowledged by attribution to "the Face of Aids Film Archive at Karolinska Institutet."

Terms for logged in users

General terms and conditions for researcher's access to and use of the Face of Aids Film Archive [pdf]


Face of AIDS Film Archive processes documentary film clips and the associated metadata for archiving purposes, scientific or historical research purposes and for the public interest. Safeguards have been put in place to ensure respect for the principle of data minimisation and for the rights and freedoms of the data subjects. Read more

Requests to remove material from the archive?

If you appear in any of the films presented at this site and you want the content or personal information to be removed, please contact us.


The views and opinions expressed in the Face of AIDS Film Archive do not necessarily reflect the views of Karolinska Institutet.