In November, 1990, LIFE magazine published a photograph of a young man, David Kirby -- his body wasted by AIDS, his gaze locked on something beyond this world -- surrounded by anguished family members as he took his last breaths. The haunting image of Kirby's passing (above), taken by a journalism grad student named Therese Frare, became the one photograph most identified with the HIV/AIDS epidemic that, by then, had seen as many as 12 million people infected.
Now, 20 years after her photograph helped transform public perception of the disease, LIFE spoke with Frare about that picture; the international controversy its sparked when United Colors of Benetton used it in a 1992 ad; and the never-before-published photographs she took before and after David Kirby's death -- photos that reveal the untold story behind one of the 20th century's most heart-breaking, indelible images.
To read more and see more images, click here.
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