By the late 1980s, AIDS had been in the United States for almost a decade. AIDS became the No. 1 killer of young men in New York City, then of young men in the country, then of young men and women in the country. But despite the gravity of the AIDS crisis, there was little public acknowledgment of the disease. A group of artists in Manhattan decided to change that.
New York artist Patrick O’Connell would spend days visiting friends in the hospital, going to funerals, and coming home to a panicked answering machine message from friends who just learned they were sick. O’Connell and other artists banded together and started making art in response to AIDS. In 1988 they began calling their collective Visual AIDS.