Silence Equals Death

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Text on Button SILENCE = DEATH
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Pink triangle over white text on black background.

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Silence=Death is a symbol and slogan created in the 1980's by Avram Finkelstein, Brian Howard, Oliver Johnston, Charles Kreloff, Chris Lione, and Jorge Socarrás to raise awareness about the AIDS epidemic. The phrase was meant to criticize both the public stigma surrounding the disease as well as the Reagan administration's lack of response. The pink triangle was a symbol used by Nazis in the 1930's and 1940's to identify homosexuals, but by flipping it upside down, the creators of Silence=Death helped to reclaim the symbol for their community. The visual iconography was chosen to make the movement as inclusive as possible. As a result, the group of creators choose not to use photographs, but rather a more general symbol of a pink triangle.  

Silence=Death—and the upside down pink triangle—became a hugely impactful symbol, and eventually was adopted by the organization AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). With its new symbol, ACT UP would go on to fight AIDS both in the U.S and around the world. As of 2024, ACT UP continues to advocate for the nearly 40 million people living with HIV and AIDS. 

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Kerr, T. (2017, June 20). How Six NYC Activists Changed History With "Silence = Death". Retrieved April 11, 2020, from…

SILENCE=DEATH. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2020, from

Catalog ID CA0812