In honor of World AIDS Day, which was Dec. 1, we revisit the short life of David Kirby, via the website Rare Historical Photos. Kirby's portrayal in LIFE magazine was viewed as a turning point in the country’s perception of AIDS.


The image of Kirby on his death bed surrounded by his family is widely considered the photograph that changed the face of AIDS, humanizing the disease and showing the devastating toll the disease took on families. The photograph, taken by Therese Frare, was first published in the November 1990 issue of LIFE.



A younger Kirby.

The perception of AIDS and HIV has changed dramatically in the intervening years, as has its treatment. But with some 36 million people worldwide who are living with HIV, the fight is not over. In the words of this week’s Presidential Proclamation by Barack Obama: “On World AIDS Day, we remember those who we have lost to HIV/AIDS, celebrate the triumphs earned through the efforts of scores of advocates and providers, pledge our support for those at risk for or living with HIV, and rededicate our talents and efforts to achieving our goal of an AIDS-free generation.”