Unleashing the transformative power of the arts to advance global health.
About two months after Manisha was married in India, she started noticing symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease. Then, she found out she was pregnant.
Six months later, Manisha learned she was HIV-positive and had contracted the disease from her husband, who had become very ill shortly after their marriage. She lost her baby and her husband within months of each other and was forced to turn to her estranged in-laws for help. “Like a beggar, I was kicked to the curb. I was like a drowning person clutching at straws,” she explains.
In December 2012, Manisha participated in Through Positive Eyes, a program that empowers those coping with HIV to make their own artistic statements through photojournals. The results have become powerful tools to combat stigma, one of the most formidable barriers to reducing the spread of AIDS today, and enforce principles of human rights and social justice. “Through my photographs, I want to say that those with HIV are not less than anyone else,” Manisha contends. “We can live, we can work, we can eat, we can drink. We have the same rights as anyone else.”
With programs such as Through Positive Eyes, the UCLA Art & Global Health Center harnesses the communicative power of art to educate on public health. By communicating visually, art transcends language barriers and challenges communities and individuals to reconsider preconceived notions of intimacy in an age of disease, and of tolerance in an age of distrust. “Patients learn they’re not alone, that they can teach others and connect through art, and that their lives can be transformed,” says David Gere, the center’s director.
Gifts to the Art & Global Health Center support scholarship and programs like Through Positive Eyes, which operates in eight countries on five continents. The center uses interventions, curriculum, theater performances and exhibitions to educate on AIDS and STI awareness, treatment adherence and stigma reduction.
“We’re not doctors, but we know that through art and entertainment, we can get people to sit and listen, and, hopefully, change their behaviors,” Gere says.
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