Welcome to The Positively Women Art Exhibition. It includes works of art created by women living with HIV throughout Australia. It is intended to celebrate their lives, while bringing visibility to the stigma and discrimination they face in society.
Perhaps the most important starting point for visiting this exhibition is to have an open mind. We invite you to slow down and to experience the work on show as the artists experienced it themselves. There are four main areas to explore in this exhibition space. ‘About’ provides an overview of the research project. ‘Artists’ introduces you to the biography and life of the various women living with HIV who took part in the project. ‘Workshop’ charts the artists’ journey through a four-week art workshop. ‘Themes’ captures all of the research findings that emerged from the workshop, thematically grouped by topics. By exploring this exhibition, we hope audiences can better understand how stigma and discrimination impacts the lives of women living with HIV in Australia and support positive social change.
The artists featured in this exhibition gave consent for their stories and images to be published.
I’m wanting to actually say positive things about the HIV journey; that actually HIV has been a good thing as well as a bad thing. You know, it's given me strength, it's given me a lot of things, a lot of opportunities.
We were told at the beginning of the epidemic that we would never ever make it to here. We are living testament to the power of women, and what we can do when we get together and we support each other.
I’ve become more comfortable within my own skin. I’ve become more accepting. I’ve been able to express my own feelings and deal with them. I’d probably just before swept them under my carpet. I had a very big lump under my carpet and that’s gone.
You’re not alone. There’s many of us out there. There’s hope. You can live as long as you would’ve lived without HIV. And you have lots of choices. You’re still the same person. You’re still loveable, capable, beautiful, sexy, all those things.
It’s not the end of the world if you get diagnosed. It’s a different life you’ll lead, but still a happy joyful life.
In terms of services that can best support women today, I think it’s important to have our community of women living with HIV. We share each other’s health problems, experiences, hopes, happiness, sadness. No one else can relate to it.
They say HIV is as manageable as having diabetes, but it doesn’t have the same stigma. People with diabetes aren’t looked at like they’re going to infect other people. But people still have that mentality. That if you have HIV, they can get it and they will die. But there’s no way. I’m undetectable. My husband hasn’t got it. We’ve been together thirteen years. And all my three kids are negative as well.
There’s a lot of women and some heterosexual men out there who have HIV, but I don’t think the general population realises that. Even a lot of doctors are not testing women or heterosexual men when they’re having some symptoms because they’re just not expecting it.
Let me show you who I am because there's a lot a lot to me, not just HIV.
Having the strength and the ability to share is not something everybody has.
I would like the people viewing our art to know that the journey of a positive woman is like the journey of any other woman. It’s complicated and messy and fun and passionate and all of those things. It’s just that we have something extra to deal with and we need society’s compassion to be able to deal with it.
While the exhibition aims to inform and empower, the narratives and imagery deal with stigma and trauma and may be upsetting to some. Be kind to yourself and explore the exhibition when you’re ready. If you think you might be triggered, then it may be better if you don’t enter the exhibition. By entering the exhibition, you are responsible for any impacts. If the exhibition raises any issues for you, always remember support is there. For people in Australia, the number to lifeline is 13 11 14 and resources related to HIV can be found here. People in other countries are encouraged to access their local services for support.