Love Heals

Being invited to write as an artist, to be celebrated for the campaign Positive Affirmation Day, felt great. I had a sense of pride, a warmth, a worthiness, feelings that I am learning to cultivate, so sure, I’ll support Love Positive Women, tell me more…

“Luv til it hurts”


Now I feel unsettled, confused, triggered.

I breathe, 

I am a survivor of intimate partner violence, 

I am breaking the silence.

I am very good at distracting myself, numbing, changing the subject, moving on I avoid facing my painful memories, I don’t talk about it, I didn’t talk about it, and yet just right now, I can share. As I write I realise that, just as my life incrementally fell into the depths, I have since, slowly climbed up the mountain and now there is no fear. I am not worried about provoking threat or disturbing the peace, 

I am free. 

The time line to this inner strength is long and complex, 6 years ago my home had a police sig marker and panic alarm, 4 years ago I still reacted with hysteria, 3 years ago with despair, 2 years ago I took back control. In December 2018 I had to contact the authorities because a protection order was broken, but I was calm, for the first time I didn’t feel I needed to run,

It didn’t hurt anymore. 

25 years ago I fell in love, I had found my king and he treated me like a queen. I was blinded by romance, dance and faith in a future forever, I know now that I did not love myself, I believed I was not enough on my own, I needed another, and so when things changed, I could not let go.   

He was the father of my children, my husband for better or worse, in sickness and in health, sometimes furious, sometimes fragile. I was forgiving and couldn’t see any other direction, it’s so difficult to see the light when you have to wear sunglasses to hide the bruises. We fought, then with the reality check of HIV we fought even more, and I stayed, I lied, I cried. This is not love, this is anger, bitterness, frustration with life’s struggles, debt, drugs, diagnosis. It is pain and has an aftermath, that arises in any new relationship I try to form, flinching, questioning, an inability to build trust, to feel safe, to completely embrace. 

Today the past feels lighter, I have found ways to move forward, to be independent, to love myself. I celebrate my perfect imperfections and with my sisters I build strength and solidarity. 

I am an artist, and with each image I help to create, each story I listen to, there is an increase in awareness that I am/we are not alone there is a message of empowerment. These connections have filled my heart and healed my wounds, through women that share my status, and women that support us, I have learned love.   

I am loving positive women

I am loving me

I am luving til it uplifts us all.

Olive Edwards and The Jamaican Community of Positive Women: Quilting to EmpowHer

Written by Jessica Whitbread for The HIV Howler: Transmitting Art and Activism

In 2012, Olive Edwards supported the Jamaican Community of Positive Women (JCW+) in establishing a quilting club to support women living with HIV to engage in dialogue about their trauma in relation to HIV. In 2016, this arts based method for establishing peer to peer connections was developed into a 2 day workshop to enable for the process to be shared and replicated in three other countries in the Caribbean region (Barbados, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tabago). 

Olive: I used to do dress making. I love the way that clothes look on people. Now that I don’t have to do it for a living, I am interested in the fabric and how to work with it. When I was sewing, I actually resented it because I was working instead of going to school and getting an education. I was working and having to raise children at a young age. 

Twenty years ago the AIDS quilt came to Jamaica and we had so much stigma in the country around the quilt and AIDS. That quilt was about death and those who had died. When we started to do the quilts in JCW+, women were scared and didn’t want to talk about death. So we just started talking about the women’s lives and from this we realized that women wanted to celebrate the lives that they had — not death. 

We work with diverse groups to start conversations about difficult issues. The process is always similar, it begins with the conversations that are happening while we are working and preparing to sew together. We use symbols instead of words often because it helps us talk through our stories. Lots of the stories of our community deal with the violence that we experience as women living with HIV and from our families. The butterflies are about freedom and empowerment for example — in our community we understand our symbols and use it as a code to talk about hard things. 

A lot of the women like to work in the group, because if they go home, they have to explain the process and the ideas to their family. We try to use quilt making to move women living with HIV to work through their thoughts and support them to build community and disclose to their families. 

These quilts are all made by the women. Sometimes we do collective quilts like our Caribbean quilt which touches our four community partners. These are really powerful. Working on these we acquire some appreciation about our different skills that we all bring to our collaborations. Our understanding of what a quilt is and what it should look like or be about is challenged. For me I do it for the therapy of it. Sometimes people think it is going to be easy to do. But you have to go deep in yourself to feel your message and then the patience to create and finish it. Its healing. 

We were inspired by a quilt in Russian that we had no idea what it said but we felt the meaning that came to Jamaica as part of LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN and we wanted to have more people see our quilts around the world. So we could share stories and be in solidarity with our sisters globally. 


The HIV Howler: Transmitting Art and Activism is a limited edition art newspaper focusing on global grassroots HIV art and cultural production. Artists have and continue to play a fundamental role in shaping broader societal understandings of HIV and working within communities that are most impacted by the virus: queer and trans people, people who use drugs, sex workers, people of colour, and indigenous peoples. Together we reflect the immediacy and urgency of global HIV/AIDS dialogues as well as their historical continuities.

The HIV Howler is a forum for dialogue, a demand for aesthetic self-determination, a response to tokenism, and a guide to navigating the vibrational ambiguities between policy, pathology, and community.

Publishers + Editors

Anthea Black and Jessica Whitbread

Editorial Advisory Committee 

Anthea Black, Theodore Kerr, Charles Long, Mikiki, Darien Taylor, L’Orangelis Thomas, and Jessica Whitbread.


We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Toronto Arts Council. 


The definition of an artist collective is, an initiative that is the result of a group of artists working together to achieve a common objective, this is also the definition of “Catwalk4power”. 

That most of the women involved would not describe themselves as artists or link the development of the most “empowering evening ever” to a shared creative process, is exactly why it worked.

Catwalk4power was ignited by the spark “We want to make women visible, how about a fashion show?” and with each contribution, suggestion and inspiration it has grown into a fierce fire and a force for positive engagement. Starting with a focus on what strengths women had, meant existing skills were realised and honed, and leaders allowed to emerge. Everyone involved had a stake in the project, and there wasn’t really a plan, it just grew organically, there was no right or wrong way to do anything, we just did it.

“It was the space, the opportunity to explore, I would not have thought I could do that, be artistic, but as I saw other women make things, I thought OK I’ll give it a go, I surprised myself”. This is how the first workshop worked. Artists Donna and Mare from ACT Up London demonstrated how to make necklaces, beads and bangles and women were given the opportunity and tools to simply make stuff.

You could just do anything, there were no expectations, you came and played, there were themes and common ideas, but it was also very fluid, It was a chance to explore, find your creative self and as the “project” grew, so did the women. The lead up to the event planned for International women’s day 2018 gradually unfolded and everyone flourished in their own way. Some created clothes, others cake. Some took to the floor to share Makosa dancing, and even more learnt how to strut and own their space.

Underlying it all was a belief that everyone has the capacity to be what they want to be and because of this everyone invested their time and energy. You didn’t have to commit to each workshop, you didn’t have to perfect poetry writing, technical drawing or even perform. You simply needed to turn up and have fun. Laughter was never far away, if it was a workshop at Positively UK, a “making” evening in someone’s home, or the IAS2018 conference in Amsterdam, there is always a joy in catwalk4power because it is a celebration. It is essentially a platform for women living with HIV to be their best selves, to step up, by strutting out of their comfort zone into an atmosphere of acceptance and appreciation. It is performance art, and creativity at its finest, whether you notice the intricately hand sown ribbons on Charity’s gown or the green anatomically representative bum from LeaSuwanna, the collection could be in any art gallery.

The initiative began with a handful of women and grew to over 40, raising funds through merchandising, self-managing and most importantly inspiring. The Catwalk4power is not an intervention for women living with HIV it is an evolution. This is why we celebrate for Love Positive Women, because they are inspiring!

For more information contact

How do you love yourself!

Deloris Dockrey

How do you love yourself! 

When you are told that you are worthless, no good and lazy.

When you are told that you are fat and useless.

When you begin to internalize people’s opinion of you.

You rise above people’s opinions and you rely on you.

You see the beauty in your life.

You see the joy of your family.

You experience the love of family and you revel in their warmth.

You reaffirm that you are kind and caring and that you support your family.

You know you are always willing to help others.

You know you share your gifts and talents.

You see the beauty in your life.

You experience the love of your son.

You see his love for you and

You know love!

You begin to reflect the love you see, and

You begin to experience that love for yourself.

You begin to see the joy, the courage, the heart that is you.

You begin to love you! You are love!

My name is Deloris. I am a survivor of early childhood sexual trauma, and I am a woman living with HIV.  At 59 years old, I have become very reflective of my journey to find joy in my life. In 1994 at age 35, my hope was shaken when I found out I was HIV positive. I had not considered that I was at risk for HIV.  After 24 years, it is still very difficult to express how shaken, devastated and angry I was with that diagnosis. I felt that all my hopes were dashed. I have come to learn that my desire to live and the deep desire to raise my son sustained and strengthened me. HIV changed my life! My now deceased mother told me that when life gives you lemons – you make lemonade! That lesson has sustained me over the years. I have learned to deal with my self-loathing, low self-esteem, guilt, and shame. I have addressed these stressful feelings through mental health therapy, family, social support and poetry. It has been through my writing that I have discovered more about myself, who I’d like to become and what I needed to do to get there. Understanding the disease was crucial to my acceptance of living with HIV.  

There are so many experiences in our lives that make achieving self-care arduous.  When I reflect on my life, I have struggled and I have survived. But it was easier to take care of others, to be helpful and to make sure others are getting the care they need than to take care of myself. In my journey I have learned lessons that have assisted in my progress toward true self-care. I affirm that I love me, spending alone time reading and writing works for me, meditation and praying helps to build my spiritual core, and participating in spiritual retreats help to build a community of support. I share this piece for Love Positive Women as a testament to my journey, with the hope that it can inspire others. 


LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN (LPW) happens each year between February 1st–14th. It is a global project, conceptualized in 2012 and implemented in 2013, raising awareness about women and girls living with HIV using social media to link local grassroots gestures of love. Using Valentine’s Day as a backdrop, Love Positive Women creates a platform for individuals and communities to engage in public and private acts of love and caring for women living with HIV. Going beyond romantic love to deep community love and social justice, Love Positive Women is call to action. It requires participants to spend time reflecting about how they, as either a woman living with HIV or an ally, will commit to loving women living with HIV. Through action, change can be made. Working from a place of strength, Love Positive Women focuses on the idea of interconnectedness, relationship building, loving oneself and loving one’s community. By starting from a place of love, there are endless ways to build strong communities. While Love Positive Women is active primarily between February 1st–14th, it remains a symbol of how the world can be different throughout the year. Groups in over 45 countries have participated in shifting lives and making a difference through acts of love. LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN is an ongoing project established by Visual AIDS artist member Jessica Whitbread

For Love Positive Women 2019, Luv Til It Hurts will participate by celebrating women artists living with HIV in our community by featuring one each of the 14 days. We are excited to honor our ladies!

In turn we encourage everyone in our networks to do their own intervention in their communities and share the love on social media #lovepositivewomen @lovepositivewomen <3


Piece: $oropositiva
Collage on greaseproof paper and serigraphy
30x 40

Micaela Cyrino, 30, is a visual artist and militant of sexual and reproductive rights, blackness, and HIV / AIDS, in her artistic work and in her participation in groups such as Coletivo Amem. She graduated in Visual Arts from Santa Marcelina University. (São Paulo, Brazil)