It was probably one of the most notorious, genuinely shocking advertisements of any generation.
When the grim reaper appeared on our television screens in the 1980s, the impact was immediate. The ad showed the grim reaper taking the lives of ordinary people with a bowling ball, its victims knocked over like pins.
This was at the very height of community fear about the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, which in its most advanced stage of infection causes AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
The fear was understandable, given that a diagnosis was in those early days usually meant a death sentence.
But the campaign also created significant issues for those who had already acquired the disease, given most sufferers were gay men infected during unprotected sex.
Fear often breeds ignorance and so it was as people began to subscribe to such ridiculous notions as being able to contract HIV merely by touching someone with the illness.
While a cure has not been found, great advancements have been made in developing drugs to treat the disease so people are able to continue to live normal lives.
These are some of the issues that have been explored by playwright Darren Vizer in his show STIGMA, which he is bringing to the Border’s HotHouse Theatre.
His production was a way to explore his own diagnosis of 20 years ago and the path he has since taken through the prejudices that still exist.
“I realised what I was doing was un-branding HIV,” he says. “It's not a gay virus anymore, and I wanted to take it away from this sexualised thing, that there are different ways to contract it.”
But of course the story he has to tell can be applied to so much else in our supposedly more enlightened society.
We might think we have come a long way, but there still are lessons to be learned from the past within the context of a range of current-day issues such as the forced detention of refugees or violence against women.
We must always have open minds and do our best to fight such inequality.
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