LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN is an international series of grassroots events that uses Valentine's Day as a backdrop, creating a platform for individuals and communities to engage in public and private acts of love and caring for self-identifying women living with HIV. Working from a place of strength, LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN focuses on the idea of interconnectedness, relationship building, loving oneself and loving ones community.
Since 1988, Visual AIDS has utilized art to fight AIDS by provoking dialogue, supporting HIV+ artists and preserving a legacy, because AIDS is not over. LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN is an ongoing project originally established by Visual AIDS Artist+ Member Jessica Whitbread in 2013. LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN valentine making workshops became an annual Visual AIDS project in 2014.
“Why not do something nice for the women most forgotten about?” asks Whitbread. “Taking the time to do something for someone else is really beneficial to society as a whole. Don’t underestimate the value in something as simple as sending a valentine.”
In our first year, we made and mailed approximately 100 valentines. Since then, demand for the program has increased enthusiastically. This year, 60 participants created 550 handmade valentines for HIV+ women around the world!
LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN is rapidly growing and we need your support to keep our valentine workshops thriving. Help us to grow our LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN workshops, expanding our reach to HIV+ women.
For LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN, artists, activists and HIV+ women come together at Dieu Donné’s paper making studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard to create hundreds of unique handmade paper valentines, which are mailed to self-identifying women living with HIV around the world. Visual AIDS partners with the Fire Island Artist Residency, Dieu Donné, and The International Community of Women Living with HIV to host valentine paper making workshops to show our love and support for women living with HIV internationally. For this year and next, Visual AIDS is expanding our output to reach further than we ever have, and we need your help to make it happen!
Each year after the workshops, Visual AIDS organizes a LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN Valentine Pop-up Exhibition, displaying all of the valentines in a New York art space. The Exhibition's Opening Reception includes brief reflections on the importance of love and community building from Visual AIDS Artist+ Members and others from organizations supporting HIV+ women, such as She's So VOCAL (Voices of Community Activists & Leaders), Iris House, and Positive Women's Network (PWN-USA). Immediately after the exhibition, valentines are sent to recipients as a gesture of love and support in hopes of building community and lessening the stigma experienced by women living with HIV. They are mailed to women internationally and arrive in time for Valentine’s Day.
LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN Participants, 2018
Why Is This Important?
Often, self-identifying women living with HIV feel powerless due to a lack of community and support. Stigma against women living with HIV is a major obstacle to prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Stigma leads to the marginalization and exclusion of individuals and exists in many forms, such as societal stigma and self-stigma. We are here to show HIV+ women that they are loved.
Elizabeth, founder of She's So VOCAL puts it powerfully, saying: "When I was diagnosed with HIV, I began meeting other HIV+ women who felt like no one cared. When women are living with HIV and have no support at all, they feel left out and abandoned. We were looking for a way to make it better, to show that they are family and that we love them. We wanted to take things up a notch and LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN lets us do that. Thanks to this program, we're not only a stronger community, we're a family! We've got family for life all over the world!"
Self-identifying women living with HIV can sign up to receive a valentine by sending their name and mailing address to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Risks and challenges
2018 marks Visual AIDS' 30th Anniversary, a milestone for a small organization that has had a large impact throughout the various waves of the HIV/AIDS crisis and related activism. Visual AIDS continues to be the only organization that brings together artists, activists, scholars, health organizations, and the many voices along the HIV spectrum to raise awareness about HIV and issues of social justice through art.
Visual AIDS reaches a large community in need. We produce projects unlike those produced by other arts organizations, and we do it on a lean budget. In the current political climate in which healthcare and civil rights are at grave risk on a daily basis, yet where we have seen a huge resurgence in the power of activism, our work has become more relevant and impactful than ever. However, the precarious nature of arts funding, including relevant threats to the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources, makes fundraising more difficult each year. Therefore, the ongoing support of individual donors becomes even more essential in growing our programs.
With all socially engaged projects, there are the challenges of reaching local community members and ensuring that projects fulfill real needs and provide valuable support for the intended community. To ensure we are reaching the greatest number of women while also creating a safe space to create community, we partner with organizations doing the most impactful work for HIV+ women—She's So VOCAL, Iris House, Positive Women’s Network, the International Community of Women Living with HIV—to ensure that we are reaching HIV+ women, understanding their needs and ensuring their comfort level and ability to participate in the workshops and receive valentines. As a result of our partnerships, we now have more requests from HIV+ women around the world than we have valentines to send, resulting in a direct need to grow the program.
About Visual AIDS
Visual AIDS utilizes art to fight AIDS by provoking dialogue, supporting HIV+ artists, and preserving a legacy, because AIDS IS NOT OVER. Visual AIDS is the only contemporary arts organization fully committed to HIV prevention and AIDS awareness through producing and presenting visual art projects, while assisting artists living with HIV/AIDS. We are committed to preserving and honoring the work of artists with HIV/AIDS and the artistic contributions of the AIDS movement. www.visualaids.org
About Dieu Donné
Dieu Donné is a leading cultural institution dedicated to serving artists through the collaborative creation of cutting-edge contemporary art using the process of hand papermaking.
About the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW)
The International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW) is the only global network by and for women living with HIV. ICW exists to lead efforts towards securing and improving the quality of life for women living with HIV by mobilizing, organizing, advocating, mentoring and raising consciousness on the issues that directly impact lives.
About the Fire Island Artist Residency (FIAR)
The Fire Island Artist Residency (FIAR) is an organization founded in 2011 which brings lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer identifying emerging artists to Fire Island, a place long-steeped in LGBTQ history, to create, commune, and contribute to the location's rich artistic history.
A very special thank you to Kaz Senju for the LPW participant group photo and our Kickstarter video. Thank you to Pippa Hetherington for the participant portraits and to Sato Yamamoto for the workshop images.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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