The World AIDS Day commemoration exhibition combats the HIV stigma through art

A local textile artist is fighting the HIV stigma on World AIDS Day by sharing art and having conversations about his status.

Textile artist Graeme Lavery, 36, shows some of his patchworks on the AIDS commemorative blanket from Great Britain Exhibition at Küchenstrasse 24 in the Baltic triangle.

The exhibition, which opened on Wednesday December 1st, features some of the original panels from the AIDS commemorative blanket, created in memory of the people who lost their lives during the height of the AIDS pandemic.

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Graeme, who was diagnosed with HIV nine years ago, held a series of workshops at the nightclub to create new quilting patches, initiate conversations about living with HIV in the modern world, and educate people about the history of quilting.

Graeme told ECHO: “In the 80s you might not have known your son was gay, you live this fabulous life, then suddenly you find out that you are gay and die of AIDS. If your sons died, they stayed Parents returned with all these feelings unable to process what they were told.

“They went to sew bees, almost like art therapy. It brought together a lot of people from different backgrounds.

“Understanding that through workshops gave me an idea of ​​how useful it was and what can become of it.”

Graeme, who is openly HIV positive, hopes the exhibit at 24 Kitchen Street will encourage others to challenge the stigma surrounding the virus.

He added, “I think people are just scared, they don’t know what HIV is, they just think about the AIDS pandemic.

“When I was first diagnosed, I thought I would be dead in ten years, but the nurse told me I only had to take one pill a day and I would be fine.

“All of the things I went through with my mental and physical health to process the diagnosis came off my chest and I was able to concentrate on what came next. I’ve had the fantastic support from my friends and family. Sahir House and the hospital. “

Graeme Lavery at the UK AIDS Memorial Quilt exhibition at 24 Kitchen Street in Liverpool on World AIDS Day, Wednesday 1st December

Mean developments in HIV treatment and medicine HIV positive people can lead long and healthy lives with a life expectancy similar to that of HIV-negative people.

A person taking effective medication can reach undetectable status, which means they cannot pass the virus on to anyone else. This is generally referred to as ‘U = U’ – undetectable is not transferable.

Elsewhere, the drugs PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) are highly effective in preventing HIV transmission.

Graeme added, “We have come a long way in terms of medical advances like U = U and PrEP, they are definitely some of the greatest tools we have to reduce stigma. The more people are aware of their choice in protection. ” their sexual health and normalize conversations about sex and HIV testing. “

He continued, “I think the best way to counter the stigma would be to teach it in schools and start at the grassroots. If you have to educate that many people at once, it is through schools, colleges, medical students at the university.

“The biggest problem is that we don’t have current sexual health advertisements. If there were billboards on buses or things about U = U, if the government put things out that said ‘you need to know’, that would be the discrimination that people experience. “

At the time of his diagnosis, Graeme sought help from the Merseyside-based charity Sahir House.

Founded in 1985, the charity provides HIV support and education across the Liverpool metropolitan area, working to remove stigma while advocating for the rights of people living with HIV.

Today, Wednesday, December 1st, will take place at 4 p.m. Sahir House YouTube channel.

Serena Cavanagh, Director of Health Promotion at Sahir House, said, “World AIDS Day gives us a chance to have these conversations about HIV. Our promise this year was to end the HIV stigma, one talk at a time.

“The quilts are a living reminder of people whose lives were lost to HIV so early.

“Although people are living well with HIV today, there is still a stigma surrounding the virus and HIV testing.

“If everyone knew their HIV status, we could move closer to the government’s goal of zero HIV transmission by 2030.

“Let’s continue these conversations and help end the HIV stigma, one conversation at a time.”

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