This website is run on a volunteer basis by the German non-governmental organization, the Working Group for Bringing AIDS History into Museums, or Arbeitskreis AIDS-Geschichte ins Museum(AKAIM). Our team acts as a bridge – between archives, museums and libraries, and people, organizations, and groups – for materials from the history of living with HIV/AIDS over the last three decades.We offer support in securing a worthy space for those artefacts from AIDS activism and living with HIV that cannot or can no longer be stored privately. Flyers, journals, letters and other material remnants from the last thirty years of AIDS and HIV risk being lost. We aim to preserve as much as possible of these valuable testimonials and objects, and, if possible, to make them available for research and educational purposes, or as pieces of history for use by the general public.
The team is also working on the constitution of a German AIDS Oral History Archive. To this end, two introductory interviews – with Rita Süssmuth and Martin Dannecker –have already been conducted.
Background of AKAIM:
In 2013, a lack of knowledge about the AIDS movement among those living in Germany, and a fear of losing valuable parts of that history, provoked the founding of the Workshop on AIDS History, or the Themenwerkstatt AIDS-Geschichte, at the German AIDS Service Organization, the Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe. The group is now known as AKAIM, or the Arbeitskreis AIDS-Geschichte ins Museum. The AIDS crisis, the fight for livable lives for HIV-positive persons, and the emergence of self-help groups and AIDS activism have not only changed those individuals impacted by the illness; these occurrences are important parts of contemporary history.
AIDS Oral History Archive:
Compared with the growing interest in oral history archives in countries such as the UK and the US, Germany lags behind In the production of a living memory of the AIDS movement. The more than thirty years of HIV/AIDS, and the age and health of many important actors, render oral history interviews about engagements with the crisis particularly urgent. Hence, the maintenance of and engagement with the history of AIDS in Germany – in both the former FRG, West Germany, and in the former GDR, East Germany –are the main goals of building a collection of recorded video and audio recorded interviews with actors from the movement. The collection of interviews with people who were engaged in AIDS service organizations, activist groups, self-help-networks, research on HIV, AIDS care projects or health policy will be made publicly accessible for educational and research purposes.
A central goal of the collection is to capture the diversity of impacted actors’ perspectives and experiences. The archive will help to establish the history of AIDS as part of the collective memory of German society, and as an essential component of the queer politics of remembrance.
Today it is often forgotten that a diagnosis of HIV between the 1980s and early 1990s meant living with an increased chance of dying within a short period of time. Moreover, the danger of dying is more than just history for those in Germany unable to access proper medical care, such as for undocumented migrants.Although combination therapy has been available since 1996, AIDS remains different from other treatable, chronic illnesses. The stigma of “the gay plague” and of “the gay and junkie disease”, as it was commonly described in the 1980s, continues today in the ongoing discrimination of persons living with HIV. Remembering the history of AIDS offers a way to honor those who passed away, and to not forget the trauma caused by related loss and discrimination.
In response to the AIDS crisis, novel forms of solidarity were established between lesbians and gay men, people who use drugs, migrants and other marginalized groups. New modes of empowerment, political interventions and organizationsalso took shape. Unique needs and life rhythms among persons living with HIV redefined structures of care. New Public Health took shape over the course of the crisis, and for the first time, representatives of self-help organizations became systematically involved in the process of policy-making. Last but not least, the AIDS crisis provoked rigorous engagements in the realms of art and literature.
Today there is urgent need to continue the sociocultural and political changes that have emerged in relation to the AIDS crisis in Germany: this would include, for example, the decriminalization of drug consumption and sex work, and combating racism or the exclusion and marginalization of persons with disabilities. For a queer politics of remembrance, for due societal engagement with HIV/AIDS, for impactful education and for complex historical research, preserving the memory of those persons involved in the AIDS movement should not be left undone.