The politics of public memory: HIV/AIDS activism in Greece

HIV/AIDS activism in Greece

7 June 2021, 17:00 (UK time)

  • Greek Studies Now
  • VIDEO: “We have never been racist”: Rethinking race and ethnicity in contemporary Greece

40 years after the first HIV/AIDS diagnosis, Greek activists look back at the collective history of the fight against the disease and its political, social and cultural ramifications

On 5 June 1981, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported for the first time a rare case of pneumonia in 5 young gay men in Los Angeles. That moment signalled the official beginning of one of the most dramatic public health crises at the end of the 20th century, the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

What does this date mean to us today? How does it invite us to reconsider the HIV/AIDS epidemic, its history, but also its individual stories? In a country like Greece, this has always been a difficult debate and, to a large extent, a debate that has never quite happened.

How timely is the public memory of the first period of the epidemic at a global as much as at a local level? What does it mean to commemorate the victims of HIV/AIDS and to rebuild the cultural archive of trauma? How can we continue to be inspired by the activist fights against, as well as the continuing battle for equity of provision and against social exclusion? How does the conversation about AIDS connect to the contemporary moment, during another (different but also similar) pandemic? How much do global social inequalities, fear, stigma, still determine the history of HIV as a major medical and social issue?

We will raise such questions in an open discussion co-organized with Positive Voice (“Thetiki Foni” - the Union of People Living with HIV in Greece) and supported by TORCH and the collective Greek Studies Now. Our aim is to talk about the transnational, but also the local experience of HIV/AIDS, an experience that has arguably remained disavowed, especially when it comes to the public memory of people and communities targeted by HIV/AIDS. Our aim is to recollect, but also to demand, public memory: looking back at these last four decades while being propelled into the future.

Participants in this open discussion include activists and members of the communities that became active early on in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Greece, and include: Gregory Vallianatos, Daisy Galiatsatou, Panagiotis Damaskos, Panagiotis Evangelidis, Maria Katsikadakou (Cyber), Andreas Mazarakis.

The discussion is in Greek – but the video recording is available with English subtitles.

This event is part of a larger initiative to reignite the public debate on HIV/AIDS in Greece and its memory, supported by the TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellowship, HIV/AIDS in Greece: A Political Archive.