Remembering 1981 - Learnings from the past

It has now been forty years since the CDC bulletin Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) described cases of a rare lung infection in five gay men in Los Angeles. This was the first official report of what would become known as AIDS – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. What reactions did the first reports of a strange, new disease generate – amongst medical researchers and doctors, in the gay community, and in the public at large? What can we learn from the past to meet the challenges of the future? In this theme, we have collected film clips from the archive, documentaries and essays on the HIV and AIDS pandemic.


"Little did we know" – A look back at the first AIDS report with Dr. James Curran

Dr James Curran, mostly known for his work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the 80's, pinpoints several key events and persons linked with the very first years of discoveries on HIV and AIDS.

Selections from the archive


Crossover - Full Version

This production was made as the opening film for the IV International AIDS Conference in Stockholm in June 1988. It gives a broad representation of the global AIDS situation in the late 1980's, and has a particular focus on social structures, poverty and stigma.

AIDS - From Panic To Silence

The primary focus of this documentary is on the history of how the AIDS epidemic started in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York in 1981. Many different stories are told about people affected or surrounded by HIV and AIDS in the early years of the epidemic.

From Stigma to Hope

Staffan Hildebrand looks back on his 25 years of documenting the HIV and AIDS epidemic for the Face of AIDS Film Archive. The film portrays a shift from pessimism towards a growing optimism in the response to HIV and AIDS.


Staffan Hildebrand returns to Australia, where he started his project of documenting the AIDS epidemic in 1988, and to Cambodia where he first arrived in 1998. He interviews some of the scientists and activists who he met back then and displays some footage from the archive.