Friday, August 12, 2011

The Graying of AIDS

This week I spoke with Katja Heinemann, Project Director and Visual Journalist, and Naomi Schegloff, Project Co-Director and Writer, of a project calledThe Graying of AIDS.” Katja first produced it for Time Magazine in 2006, as both a photo and multimedia essay to draw attention to the aging demographics of people living with HIV and AIDS. Later, many persons wanted to use her essay for educational purposes. An Open Society Institute Documentary Photography Project grant provided the seed funding that allowed Katja to take the Graying of AIDS to the next level. Together with Naomi, they launched a three-pronged campaign designed to increase sensitivity and awareness about the issues confronting people over 50 years at risk for, or living with HIV and AIDS.

Before the “Graying of Aids,” Katja worked on a project about teenagers in the USA who live with HIV. Katja believes that modern treatments lead many to think the epidemic is over and that it’s not a big problem inwealthier countries. Katja wants to show that it is not over. However, many people in the USA do not get treatments for their disease. The stigma associated with the disease is still a huge problem. Katja and Naomi strongly believe that more people need to become more educated about this issue.

“The Graying of AIDS” has found different channels to share their message. The team focuses on informing older adults, their care providers and the general public. A big part of the website draws on stories that older adultstell about their lives with HIV and AIDS. These long time survivors help dispel the knowledge gap in our communities. “The Graying of AIDS”is also a public health project. Experts including older adults living with the virus, care providers, researchers, and activists carefully review the work. Katja and Naomi also collaborate with students from the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Art Center College of Design Matters Program creating art and information exhibitions about the Graying of AIDS.

A Designer Mug

I asked Katja and Naomi about their future goals for “The Graying of AIDS.” The project continues; they add to their website as they go. Katja and Naomi both pointed out the importance of bringing in different perspectives by collaborating across disciplines. Together they offer two perspectives. They recognize that working with people from other fields will have a bigger impact in reducing the stigma and educating people. Their ultimate goal is to co-ordinate care, engage older adults, caregivers and the community to help people connect with each other’s humanity.

Please take a look at the Graying of AIDS website!

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