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The Faces of AIDS

The Faces of AIDS logo The Faces of AIDS project was launched at the end of 1999 as a means to combat the growing sentiment among the general public that "AIDS is over." The Chicago Department of Public Health's HIV division, under the leadership of Frank Oldham, Jr., saw the value in sharing people's personal stories as an effective means to dispel that myth and increase awareness of the issues surrounding HIV.

Through its two books and touring photo exhibit, The Faces of AIDS documents the compelling stories of people who are living and thriving in a new and different era of the AIDS epidemic -- an era that is less about death and more about life. The stories honor people who continue to work, play, love and courageously live their lives in the face of arduous medical regimens, uncertain financial futures, isolation and widespread discrimination.

The Faces of AIDS is a compassionate and insightful portrayal of the lives of people struggling with the complexities of a devastating disease for which there is no cure. Twenty years after the first AIDS case was reported, advances in treatment and "message burnout" have resulted in a dangerous level of complacency about the spread of HIV. The Faces of AIDS project, developed by the Chicago and Illinois Departments of Public Health, seeks to educate, expand awareness and reinvigorate the public's commitment to support AIDS prevention, care and research.

The Faces of AIDS is an effective education and advocacy tool that is being used widely with the media, the general public and legislative officials to increase knowledge, understanding and compassion about the complexities of HIV disease in the 21st century. Over 20,000 copies of the books have been distributed throughout the U.S., and the photo exhibit has traveled to many sites around the country, carrying the messages of hope, courage and faith that reflect our common humanity.

The personal testimonials are a potent means of combating fear, denial, homophobia and racism. They illuminate the social, political and cultural barriers that must be overcome in order for people to recognize their risk and gain access to appropriate health care.

"The Faces of AIDS: A Photo Documentary From the Heartland" is a dynamic, touring exhibit which poignantly reveals the realities of living with HIV and AIDS. It includes people from small towns and rural communities to major urban centers throughout the heartland of the United States. Each exhibit piece is a 2' x 3' portrait mounted beneath plexiglass and displayed on an attractive aluminum easel. There are 100 portraits available to travel throughout the U.S. An ideal presentation consists of between 20 and 40 pieces. If you are interested in bringing the photo documentary to your area, contact Faces for a cost estimate and scheduling details.

The Faces of AIDS: Living in the Heartland is a 208-page book that chronicles the lives of people living with and impacted by HIV and AIDS throughout the Midwest. Published in June 2001, these intimate stories reveal an exceptionally diverse demographic from the 11-state region: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. "Taken as a whole," writes the Chicago Tribune, "they offer a remarkable testament of how HIV has invaded and changed whole communities." Copies of the book are available for purchase.

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