Missouri: Kansas City Photography Exhibition Takes Aim at Stigma Associated With HIV/AIDS

This article was reported by the Kansas Health Institute News Service.

Kansas Health Institute News Service reported on a Kansas City, Mo., art exhibition aimed at removing the stigma of HIV infection in the African-American community. Ten young black, HIV-positive men are the subjects of photo portraits in a gallery exhibition called "Visual AIDS" at Outpost Worldwide, a Kansas City production company. The photographer and HIV/AIDS Activist Duane Cramer, of San Francisco, took the portraits in Kansas City. Cramer explained that he wanted to show images of "very strong beautiful young men that look like other people in the community." He wanted to emphasize that these people look no different from the rest of us and are willing to make a difference through these portraits without shame or fear. Visual AIDS is on display at Outpost Worldwide until the end of June.

Rashaan Gilmore, prevention coordinator at the Kansas City Care Clinic and organizer of the exhibition, explained that the stigma attached to being HIV positive can be as frightening as getting the diagnosis. As a result, many individuals deny the results and others do not get tested. Sara Nelson-Johns, Kansas City Care Clinic's clinical coordinator of therapy, also commented on the stigma attached to being HIV positive, which can come from an individual's own family, such as being made to use paper plates and plastic cutlery.

One individual in the portraits acknowledged that HIV information is available, but does not resonate with those who need it, as the literature shows mostly Caucasian males, rather than knowledgeable black men proud to educate others about HIV. Nelson-Johns considered cultural influences, including a distrust of health providers, and economic factors as some reasons why many black men are not tested. Gilmore noted that a lack of care providers of color who understand the patient's community can influence an individual's decision to get tested and return for care.