Photos capture human experience of AIDS

These photos on exhibit in Stauffer Library are meant to illustrate the experiences of people with AIDS.
These photos on exhibit in Stauffer Library are meant to illustrate the experiences of people with AIDS.

Behind all of the devastating statistics on HIV/AIDS, there are unique human experiences.

This is the concept behind “AIDS: Picture Change,” an exhibition of photographs depicting both the struggle and the hope of those in five developing countries battling the deadly disease.

The exhibit—which is traveling to universities and high schools throughout Canada—came to Queen’s Wednesday and Thursday in various locations, on campus.

Lucas Robinson, communications manager for the Canadian Coalition on HIV/AIDS and Youth in Africa—the organization presenting the exhibition—said the images are meant to inspire and raise awareness. “The message to students is simple,” he told the Journal. “Here’s how we recorded the struggle in [Africa and Asia]. Now it’s up to you—pick up your digital camera and document the fight in your area.” Last spring, Robinson traveled with eight Canadian photographers to Kenya, Ethiopia, India, Cambodia and Mozambique. He returned with photographs capturing moments in the lives of everyday citizens both living with the disease and learning about it, he said.

“The thrust of the exhibition is this,” he said. “HIV/AIDS is a global issue, and until we start seeing it that way, we won’t make the progress we need to.”

The exhibition was funded in part by the Queen’s International Affairs Association (QIAA), which aims to raise awareness of global issues and politics. Simon Tam, QIAA president and ArtSci ’07, said the images spark hope.

“They are not images of devastation nor despair,” he said. “Personally, they show me the great potential for development in these areas.”

For Jessica Nelligan, QIAA’s public relations officer and ArtSci ’07, the exhibition is about destroying stigmas about the disease and its female victims. “HIV/AIDS is disproportionately affecting women in both Canada and Africa,” she said. “The exhibit shows the power of women and how their essential rights need to be recognized.”

The exhibition will culminate with the 16th annual International AIDS Conference, which will take place from Aug. 13 to 18 at the Metropolitan Toronto Convention Centre.

The conference will bring together delegates from many streams—education, politics, science, medicine—and demand global positive action with the theme “Time to Deliver,” according to, the official website of the conference.

According to Allison Cope, education coordinator for HIV/AIDS Regional Services in Kingston, the conference will demand government and public accountability for the epidemic.

“This is a disease that can be entirely prevented, and what’s more, treated with modern medicine,” she said. “Only four per cent of the 45 million people infected with AIDS have access to medication. This is an issue for all of us, as human beings.”

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