Digital exhibit spotlights women’s experiences with HIV/AIDS

People of Color Against AIDS, Seattle, Washington, c. 1988
People of Color Against AIDS, Seattle, Washington, c. 1988. (Held at National Library of Medicine)

Too often, women — and particularly women of color — have been left out of the conversation around HIV/AIDS, according to University of Illinois Chicago historian Jennifer Brier.

In a project co-led by Brier, women are at the center of the story in the new digital exhibit “I’m Still Surviving,” which features the personal stories of women living with HIV/AIDS in Chicago, Brooklyn and North Carolina.

Visitors to the site can read and listen to hundreds of excerpts, which are organized around themes such as family, surveillance, addiction and healing.

“Presented together, the women’s narratives raise a surprising set of ideas about what health means and how communities can center wellness in direct response to systemic violence and racism,” said Brier, UIC professor and director of gender and women’s studies and professor of history.

The 39 women featured in the exhibit also are active collaborators on the project, serving as researchers, interviewers and co-designers.

The exhibit is a production of History Moves, a UIC-based initiative led by Brier that is focused on making public history more accessible through community participation and collaboration.

“I’m Still Surviving” originated in 2014 when History Moves and the Women’s Interagency HIV Study paired Chicago-area participants to interview each other and share their histories. They also worked with the women to collect personal items to accompany their narratives and develop a public exhibition, book and film.

Funding from MAC AIDS Fund, a foundation of MAC Cosmetics, in 2016 allowed for the project to extend its narrative collection to North Carolina and Brooklyn.

“Expanding the program geographically helped to diversify the heartfelt stories and experiences shared by the extraordinary women in the exhibit while also bringing attention to critical subjects related to HIV/AIDS and social and health care inequities,” Brier said.

Teaming with Brier on “I’m Still Surviving” is Matt Wizinsky, associate professor of design at the University of Cincinnati, who heads the project’s graphic design.

“I’m Still Surviving” exhibit
Print Friendly, PDF & Email