Two Eyes, Nose, Mouth. How to recognise someone with HIV

1987-2000 in United Kingdom
Health Education Authority

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Poster; 'Two Eyes Nose Mouth, How to recognise someone with HIV (the virus that leads to AIDS)' pointing out the fact
Health Education Authority|Enquiries to Science Museum, London
Health Education Authority|Enquiries to Science Museum, London

Poster, 'Two Eyes Nose Mouth, How to recognise someone with HIV (the virus that leads to AIDS)' pointing out the fact that anyone can have HIV, one of 800 health education posters produced for the Central Council for Health Education (1927-69), Health Education Council (1969-87) and Health Education Authority (1987-2000).

Can you tell if somebody has HIV or AIDS? Would they look different? This poster was part of a UK government campaign to combat a widely held belief that there was a distinct ‘Face of AIDS’.

When AIDS first hit the headlines in the early 1980s, the media’s ‘Face of AIDS’ was one that was gaunt, emaciated and clearly ill. If the sufferer was a celebrity then their stricken image was often juxtaposed with a healthy, apparently pre-AIDS one. Such images stuck in the public imagination.

In these early years much was made of the apparent link between HIV and distinct social groups. American epidemiologists initially termed those most at risk as the ‘4-H club’ – homosexuals, heroin-users, haemophiliacs and Haitians, the latter an ethnic group with a relatively high incidence of HIV carriers. Even as knowledge of the disease developed, public health campaigns tried to tackle the disease myths.

What do these posters say to you? Their intended message was that there was no ‘Face of AIDS’, that an HIV positive individual looks like anybody else. But as attempts to de-stigmatise the disease, they didn’t always work. Follow-up research suggested that even this deliberately abstract “Two eyes, nose, mouth” poster was misread by some as suggesting that you could recognise people who carried the HIV virus by examining their facial features.


Public Health & Hygiene
Object Number:
sexually transmitted infection
  • visual and verbal communication
Donated by the Health Education Authority

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