Atlanta arts organizations team up to end stigma and #StartTalkingHIV

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It’s about time we destroy the stigma around HIV. 

Living Walls, an Atlanta nonprofit that brings together artists and communities via street art, has a plan to do just that. #StartTalkingHIV brings the conversation about HIV to the forefront, chipping away at stigma through discussion panels, public murals, gallery shows, and even a kiki ball. Organizations from all over the city are coming together for several programs to bring visibility to the movement and offer space for everyone to engage with the realities of this virus in our community.

“We are bringing our community together for a month-long conversation about HIV awareness, acceptance, and representation. Throughout August we will bring you panels, parties, an art exhibit, a Kiki Ball, and a permanent mural to honor and celebrate our friends living and thriving with HIV”, Living Wall’s event description reads.

This month will offer a variety of events where you can get informed, obtain resources, meet people who want to get involved, or just dance in the name of fellowship and solidarity.

Here’s a quick walkthrough of it all!

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The series begins at 7Stages on August 10th with ¿Estamos Bien? A conversation about HIV and Latinx Salud. Hosted by La Choloteca and Community Estrella, this panel discussion will explore topics that affect the Latinx community as well as the broader community of marginalized individuals with questions like “In wake of US political reality, how are economic barriers, immigration policy and media messaging impacting HIV, overall well-being and the health of Latinx in the South?” and “How can we mobilize change for a future that celebrates all Latinx- regardless of their HIV status, documents, race, or other marginalization?” This conversation will be open to all and will offer live spanish language interpretation to a limited amount of monolingual spanish speakers.

The evening continues into night with¡Tra tra tra!: Pari Contra la Estigma at Aisle 5. Stop by Choloteca’s very first 18+ event and join the discussion to end HIV. Special Guest DJ NAMASTÉ SHAWTY joins Esmé, ANÓNIMA, and Nota for dance and healing. Free HIV testing will be offered at the event. 

“It is important for La Choloteca to be a part of this conversation because it endangers our community. Not just physically, but mentally” says Kenneth Figueroa of La Cholotecha. “We hope that with our panel and party contra la estigma, it helps to educate people to not be afraid to get tested, ask for help, talk about their health, and most importantly to not abandon those who are currently living and THRIVING with HIV. We cannot talk about freedom unless that is extended to everyone regardless of status, gender, sexuality, etc. Latinx people are resilient, but we must push further and harder than certain to ensure we can all thrive through our struggles.”


Next up, join us on August 17th at#StartTalkingHIV: Stories of Southerners Living with HIV through Art. WUSSY hosts this evening of art and performance at the Annex Bookstore. The goal of the exhibition is to center the views and experiences of those living with HIV in our conversations and art revolving around HIV/AIDS. “Before anything else, with this exhibition I wanted to make sure the people in our communities were telling their own stories of living with HIV/AIDS,” says Emily M. Getsay, curator of the show. 

“I wanted Southerners to have a space to say this is what it's like, this is what it used to be like, and this is where we are now with HIV/AIDS.” A variety of visual artist’s work will be accompanied by a poetry reading and live body painting, held at Annex Bookstore.

The final day of the series picks up on August 23rd at the High Museum for Using Art as a tool: HIV Awareness, Acceptance, + Representation. The incomparable performer and artist Kia LaBeija leads a discussion focusing on how intersections of identity can be used as tools for community representation for artists living with HIV. 


Finally, this community celebrates each other the best way we know how, a ball. The final event of the #StartTalkingHIV series is Chop The Stigma Kiki Ball! MORPH and Southern Fried Queer Pride team up at The Mammal Gallery (at the MET Atlanta) for a friendly evening of competition, runway, and dance. With HIV-related categories and Byrell the Great of Queen Beat, the night promises to be one of courage, strength and empowerment.

This month’s events invite us to participate in the fight to end the stigma. We have a chance to see each other, lift each other up and provide for each other in ways we might not have known before. By attending any one of these programs, we can create bonds that strengthen our queer family and beginning to heal some of the wounds that HIV has caused. It’s time to do something about HIV.  #StartTalkingHIV offers a way. It starts by simply showing up.

Nicholas Goodly is an Atlanta poet and the Writing Editor of WUSSY MAG.