Since the beginning of the HIV epidemic, art has provided a channel for expressing love, loss, stigma, community, and activism. Think Keith Haring, Bill T. Jones, Larry Kramer, among others. The Names Project (also known as the AIDS Quilt) provided an artistic forum for the communal response to the personal, devastating losses to AIDS—many of the estimated 48,000 panels covered the National Mall in Washington this week.
Alongside scientific and policy updates, AIDS 2012 featured artistic responses to the HIV epidemic. David Gere, Director of the Art & Global Health Center at UCLA, hosted a reception of MAKE ART/STOP AIDS—a network of global artists who use art to provide adherence and mental health support for people living with HIV (PLWH) and affected by HIV. Gere spoke about the importance of the art creation and sharing processes in bringing out “the human side of the HIV epidemic.” In addition to physical art pieces from South Africa, Through Positive Eyes, a participatory photography and video storytelling project, features photographs and videos created by PLWH.
The Exhibit Hall and Global Village at the conference displayed other artistic expressions in the HIV response: a listening station featuring stories written by sex workers through the Red Umbrella Project; Cameras 4 Change photography project; larger-than-life condom demonstrations during a samba dance performance; Thai dancing featuring fashionable condom dresses; among many others. The AIDS.gov “State of New Media” Satellite Session featured a brief video by one of the panelists highlighting the power of video storytelling in connecting and healing.
Conference participants also had the opportunity to share their voices through photo sharing campaigns, such as the Let’s Stop HIV Together, Facing AIDS, and Freedom of Choice. A more than 100-foot tall mobile of paper dolls hung from the ceiling, featuring messages by conference participants in support of female condoms.
Check out these pictures featuring some of the diverse artistic expression at AIDS 2012. As we come together to “turn the tide,” join in the artistic dialogue. Share your story, art, sculpture, photographs, video, film, dance, music, or play. And in the process—be prepared to transform yourself and others.