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Famed LA graffiti crew creates AIDS awareness billboard

LOS ANGELES -- AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) recently unveiled the second installment of the AHF Artists Gallery billboard series, a collection of artworks meant to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and other sexual health concerns through thought-provoking and creative presentations by both well-known and up-and-coming artists.

The pieces are then converted into large-scale billboards and posted at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Highland Avenue in Hollywood.

Following a piece about sexual health surrounding “friends with benefits” by renowned multimedia artist Bill Barminski, AHF commissioned two famous LA graffiti artists to create an inspirational work that raises AIDS awareness just in time for World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. The billboard, created by Galo “Make One” Canote and Sergio “Doc43” Rueda of the prolific graffiti crew STN (Second To None), features a colorful depiction of one of AHF’s clients in Ethiopia with the powerful message, “AIDS is NOT over.”

“People are still being affected by this virus and millions of people are living with [HIV],” Canote said. “There needs to be an end to this epidemic, and the only way to bring it to an end or to at least prevent it [from spreading] is through education and self-care.”

“[HIV/AIDS] impacts all cultures and has no boundaries. This disease can impact anyone regardless of race, religion, culture, or gender,” Rueda added. “We all must be diligent and strive to find a cure to eradicate this virus. Educating people on AIDS will also avoid stereotyping people who are living with the virus.”

The artists – who rose to fame during the rise of hip-hop culture in Los Angeles and went on to leave instantly recognizable street art around the city after coming together as STN – aimed to create a simple, yet colorful piece that would draw attention to the important cause of continuing the fight to end the AIDS epidemic that has impacted millions of people over the past 30 years.

While Canote used his love of typographic art to emblazon the billboard with its meaningful words, Rueda painted a moving, lifelike rendition of a young AHF client from Africa, working from a photograph taken by AHF’s team there. The striking piece is signed simply, “Galo / Doc43.”

Canote knows several people living with HIV and lost a close friend to the virus ten years ago, and Rueda has a close family friend who has been living well with HIV for a decade. Canote said the artists hope the billboard inspires its viewers to “get educated, be safe, help reduce the spread of the virus, and furthermore to encourage people to take action!”

“I strongly believe it is important to bring awareness to the fact that AIDS still exists,” Canote said. “I was proud to be a part of something so globally important.”

More information about the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is HERE.