Shoppers got a taste of reality as the Florida Department of Health launched “Faces of HIV” this past Saturday at Governor’s Square Mall.
“Faces of HIV,” a mobile art exhibit that was open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., depicted the lives of Florida residents living with HIV and AIDS through portraits, video interviews and journal writing.
Participants of the project address how they became infected with HIV and dealt with the transitioning of their diagnoses, as well as their personal relationships, the effects of HIV on their body and more.
The Florida Department of Health hoped to change the perception of the stereotypical stigma associated with HIV.
“The exhibit displayed diversity, showing that different people from all walks of life could encounter this virus,” said Brownie Jo Gilbreth of Tallahassee, Florida. “It was really touching and informative.”
Many health department workers were on the prowl, educating people throughout the mall and luring them to the exhibit so they could experience the artwork, journals and stories of these survivors.
Other workers were at a table in front of the exhibit, handing out pamphlets, and condoms.
Many individuals were in awe of the event. And a few admitted to learning new information about the virus.
“The exhibit can empower anyone whether their status is positive or negative,” said Shilena Willams, a Tallahassee native, from the “Bureau of HIV/AIDS. “It also helps to lift the heavy stigma that this disease carries, especially in the African-American community.”
Jessica Wilder, a teacher from Boston added, “One in five people with HIV don’t know they’re infected.”
Someone with HIV can be a father, mother, grandparent, friend and neighbor.
Raegan Gillette, of Anson -Stoner Advertising Agency, added that out of over 60 participate with writing journals for thirty, fifteen were chosen to be the face of “Faces of HIV.”
Anson-Stoner partnered with The Florida Health Department, on this endeavor.
The exhibit will make other stops in cities across the state including Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Tampa, and Jacksonville.