The historic kiss of Fernando Aiuti, pioneer of the fight against HIV, on the mouth of an HIV-positive woman, Rosaria Iardino, in 1991, has become a symbol in the fight against the stigma towards those suffering from AIDS. That kiss of 28 years ago “made a difference” in the fight against AIDS in Italy, for Rosaria Iardino, who told it, interviewed by ANSA on the death of the immunologist, in 2019, as a sort of watershed in an era in which discrimination against HIV-positive people was the order of the day in Italy.
“That kiss was certainly the most striking act, but Fernando did a lot more than just that kiss,” said Iardino. What everyone saw on December 1, 1991 in Cagliari, in the middle of the conference for the World Day for the Fight against AIDS, is that Aiuti got up, got off the stage and went to meet a young HIV-positive girl, taking her in his arms and kissing her on the mouth.
“We had decided to give each other that kiss the night before – he continues – because we were now very discouraged, it seemed that neither words nor scientific articles were needed anymore”. For weeks, in fact, there had been discussions on whether or not the deep kiss was a vehicle for contagion of the HIV virus and that kiss silenced those fake news of many years ago like a cold shower.
“It took a lot. We didn’t know it would cause such a sensation and how much that photo could travel around the world,” he observes. “We had done it thinking of Italy, but newspapers also arrived from Japan. Our message – he says still excited – was addressed to HIV people because then the stigma killed much more than the infection. People died before they died”.
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