More to Me than HIV: normalising and desensationalising the reality of living with HIV

October 30, 2022

More to Me than HIV is a local community project created by people living with HIV. We aim to normalise and desensationalise the reality of living with HIV, as it becomes a lifelong health condition. As treatments for HIV improve constantly it increasingly becomes less important in our day-to-day lives.

We worked towards creating an exhibition for World AIDS Day 2019 at Jubilee Library in Brighton.

The exhibition showed portraits of people living with HIV, of different genders, races, ages, faiths and sexualities, showing that HIV affects everyone.

Our original planned event didn’t quite go to plan. Covid arrived in the months when we established the project, and the library was closed in lockdown for World AIDS Day 2019. Nevertheless, we persevered and held a digital exhibition on our website, and on digital screens in all Brighton & Hove library windows.

We were still determined to hold a ‘proper’ exhibition, so in 2020 we recruited international photographer Angus Stewart, renowned for his portraiture work.

Studio sessions took place in Brighton and London and we were thrilled to hold our physical exhibition for World AIDS Day 2020 in Jubilee Library and on digital screens in the satellite libraries of Brighton & Hove.

Our exhibition created quite a stir and came to the attention of the London Lighthouse Gallery and Studio. They offered to host the portraits for the whole month of June 2022, coinciding with the National Conference of People Living With HIV, and we were delighted to work with them to recreate the exhibition in the heart of London Docklands.

Our June 2022 exhibition was also a fundraiser for three amazing charities that our portrait participants nominated. The three charities were the Martin Fisher Foundation, the 4M Network, My Health, My Choice, My Child, My Life, and Prepster.

We are thrilled to say that we raised over £2,000 which has been shared among our three nominated charities.

For as long as people living with HIV, (and even those not living with HIV), experience the detrimental effects of HIV stigma, our work is not complete. Stigma and the perceived threat of stigma prevent people from getting tested and even from taking their medication, scared that others will notice.

In the UK we are very committed to ending HIV transmissions by 2030. You can learn more about this HERE. In essence, it says that getting everybody tested and on treatment, could end HIV.

Our exhibition encourages conversations about living with HIV. Each portrait is unique, and shows the human side of the participants. Some pictures show their hobbies, others show their work, and all have a twinkle or spark that shows that we can say there is ‘More to me than HIV’.

Similar to other conditions that have a stigma, such as mental health or cancer, it is really important for our communities to have conversations about HIV.

You can see our portraits on our website HERE