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poster/VIRUS: Artists Affected by HIV Use Images to Make Daring Statements

2 Years of Posters From a Toronto Street Campaign by Canada's AIDS Action Now

November 15, 2013

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Poster Virus

Alex McClelland and Jessica Whitbread

poster/VIRUS Curators

We are under pressure. Our viral loads are overloaded. The response to AIDS is becoming destabilized. We are faltering, becoming complacent, giving up and giving in. The law is creeping further and further in. Our bodies are over-medicalized. And our lives are under-supported. We are not the public that 'Public Health' cares about. The AIDS Industrial Complex forces out Treatment as Prevention, while state indifference and austerity measures crush us. But we are "resilient" right?

We are tired of the limits imposed on how we can talk about AIDS. We are tired of individualized responses that ignore the realities and complexities of our lives. We are tired of being defined through acronyms. We are tired of the buzzwords, language that privileges some groups over others and increases the divide between us and them. The bureaucratization of AIDS has marginalized voices that complicate for too long.

But things are changing. There is a move from business suits and pharma-driven hotel conferences back to the grassroots. This year with the poster/VIRUS project we continue to make new assertions about AIDS. We have worked with artists and activists on a series of works that address poverty, sex work, HIV disclosure, queers, incarceration, criminalization, privilege and neo-liberalism.

With this project we are calling for a return to dialogue and complexity. We are moving away from one-way social marketing AIDS campaigns. We are critiquing public health messages that divorce people from the harmful impacts of institutions and the state. This is why these works were developed as a dialogue between activists and artists, and this is why we encourage these works to help promote community dialogues. We continue the tradition of claiming space for those of us who are most impacted by the epidemic. We hope that these works provoke, critique and encourage new ways of conceptualizing and talking about AIDS. The AIDS experience is spoken through many voices. As a diverse community, we have always been able to take care of each other. We need to remember where we came from. We need to continue to self-organize. AIDS ACTION NOW!

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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Ray (Rural Midwest) Mon., Dec. 2, 2013 at 7:15 am EST
That disclosure mantra might be great for you big city folks, but for us out here in the corn/bible/gun belt, non disclosure is paramount to survival. And no it's not about getting laid. I've lived under self imposed celibacy since my diagnosis 7 years ago. My friends and neighbors know I'm gay and most treat me with dignity and respect. But most out here are simply not ready for the hiv/aids thing. I'd have to leave my job and move. I'd even be fearful for my life. Hiv is as private as any other medical condition to be shared in strictest confidence with folks you feel safe with. Not some convoluted badge of honor to challenge casual acquaintances with. Thank you for your time and for allowing me to share another take on the disclosure debate.
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