what’s the connection between Luv & CHAOS?

Hi Deza,

Luv ’til it Hurts is a two-year project focused on HIV and Stigma. CHAOS is a campaign about mental health. As a person who has a chronic mental health condition as well as HIV, it is easy for me to consider and ‘internalize’ how my mental state and HIV ‘get along’ within me. As an artist who makes public, multi-stakeholder projects, I would like to ‘externalize’ a range of topics that pertain to HIV and stigma. I am using my own experience to ask how others contend with the two ‘co-morbidities’ (as the doctors call them) of HIV and depression. 

I use the metaphor ‘get along’ as if HIV and depression are kids that need to behave together on the playground. I have other metaphors that come to mind, but prefer this one. On a good day, they do get a long ok. I pop three pills (2 for HIV, 1 for depression) around lunchtime each day. I had already dealt with depression before contracting HIV, so I wasn’t surprised when I needed to take a higher dosage to contend with the stress of learning my HIV status. This dosage has gone down (and back up and down a few times) over the five year period of being HIV+. 

There are other times when I start to worry about the different medications interacting, even if prescribed by the same doctor. There are times when I’ve felt my dream life become more active, and wondered if it was the change from an older HIV med to a newer one, or the sometimes shifting dosage of the depression med. I have HIV+ friends who have also expressed their confusion (and sometimes denial) of side effects, but I admit that these conversations are not as common as the ones in which we compare HIV meds (like, what does your doctor have you on now?), and at the same time make mention of our ‘co-morbidities’ and the other drugs we take, entre nous. 

There is no question that talking with other poz folks offers a form of solidarity. However I don’t remember talking so much to other depressed folks before I contracted HIV. From a personal standpoint, I’m quite certain that open conversation and solidarity are important to quality of life and happiness. I think this is the connection for our projects.

I vividly remember an awareness campaign over a decade ago for which you worked with the City of Paris, and beautiful black and white images representing able bodies in a way that moved my understanding on ‘ableism’ were on the sides of city buses. Deza, I think you are a brilliant campaigner, and in Cameroonian terms, you are my big sister. Given that CHAOS and Luv ’til it Hurts are happening concurrently, I would simply like for our campaigns to ‘bang up against each other’, one learning from the other. If that’s ok?

Venezuela, Bogotá

Luciérnagas Laboratorio: Arte | fronteras | VIH  proyecto de arte por Daniel Santiago Salguero

Querido Todd. Respondiendo a tus preguntas del último correo te cuento: Efectivamente la crisis Venezolana ha traído una cantidad inmensa de personas de Venezuela a Colombia. Es la migración interna más grande en la historia reciente de Sur América. Se habla de hasta cuatro millones de venezolanos que están ahora en Colombia. Esto ha transformando el territorio cultural. Han llegado a asentarse en todas las ciudades de Colombia, inclusive en las islas del Caribe o en territorios rurales distantes de las ciudades. Muchos vinieron en una primera ola, quizás donde hubo más oportunidades o eran personas con preparación profesional. Ahora no es así, vienen las personas más pobres y en las situaciones más difíciles. Vienen inclusive hasta Bogotá caminando desde Venezuela. Atraviesan páramos y se enfrentan con la actitud xenófoba de muchos colombianos que no toleran su situación. No recuerdan por ejemplo que fueron los colombianos lo que emigraron a Venezuela en nuestra crisis económica y de violencia en los años noventas. Se dice que han regresado más de 300.000 colombianos que vivían en Venezuela. También se dice que la situación acá para los Venezolanos está tan difícil que muchos se están regresando a su país, se dice que se ven personas caminando por las carreteras hacia Colombia y otras ya regresandose a Venezuela. La relación específica y que interesa con respecto al VIH es que en Venezuela ya no hay medicinas para atender el virus. Así que quienes tienen VIH en Venezuela deben salir del país en una situación aún más vulnerable que las de los otros migrantes. Deben además de buscar techo, trabajo, arraigo, buscar su medicina, que es muy costosa y que el gobierno colombiano solo suministra a personas nacidas en el país a través del sistema de salud público. La situación está desbordada por muchos lados. Por ejemplo hasta la semana pasada se dio nacionalidad colombiana a más de 24.000 niños que habían nacido de padres venezolanos en territorio colombiano y que hasta ahora no tenían nacionalidad, ya que los consulados venezolanos están cerrados o no existen mas. Cómo vez, son muchas las aristas y hechos por analizar en medio de la debacle. Se dice que esto traerá muchos cambios sociales, y culturales, como se ha visto que ha sucedido en las grandes migraciones a nivel mundial y local. Ayer oí en la radio, están entrando alrededor de cincuenta mil venezolanos diariamente por la frontera a Colombia. A través del laboratorio estamos desentrañado estas historias, informaciones, estadísticas, subjetividades. Entender y encontrar información nos ayuda a situarnos en el territorio que habitamos. Desde el laboratorio intentaremos dar voz y espacio para reflexionar sobre estas urgentes temáticas.

El laboratorio está siendo tomado por personas en su mayoría colombianos. Casi todos tienen VIH y llegaron al laboratorio a través de la Liga Colombiana de lucha contra el sida, un aliado definitivo para el laboratorio.

El laboratorio consta de 10 sesiones temáticas, de las que ya llevamos cinco: El cuerpo en las artes, Memoria Léxica, Arte y fronteras, Arte y VIH, Grupo de estudio y redes de afecto. Estas sesiones han traído charlas y colaboraciones muy esclarecedoras de la situación. Cómo ya sabes la idea es hacer un performance final en espacio público, al parecer sucederá durante la noche del 25 de octubre en el Jardín Botánico de Bogotá. Las sesiones son abiertas y gratuitas para la comunidad. Por lo general nos encontramos en grupos de 8 a 15 personas. La idea es que haya un grupo constante, creo que serán unas diez personas posiblemente las que lleguen hasta el final del laboratorio para la presentación. La metodología de trabajo para este performance viene de herramientas que adquirí en la Maestría de Teatro y Artes Vivas que hice en la Universidad Nacional de Bogotá hace unos años. Esta maestría es dirigida en gran parte por los directores de la compañía de teatro Mapateatro, que tiene un interés especial en poéticas relacionadas a la memoria, lo político y social.


Luciérnagas Laboratory: Art | borders | HIV  art project by Daniel Santiago Salguero

Dear Todd. In response to your questions from your last e-mail, let me tell you: Indeed, the crisis in Venezuela has brought a huge amount of people from Venezuela to Colombia. It is the biggest internal migration in recent South American history. It is said that there are almost four million Venezuelans in Colombia now. This has transformed the cultural terrain. They have settled in all towns across Colombia, including in the Caribbean islands and in rural locations, far away from the big cities. Many have come over in a single first wave, perhaps to where there were more opportunities, or they were people who came with a specific professional training. Now it is no longer like that, the people who are coming are poorer and in more difficult situations. They even walk from Venezuela all the way to Bogotá. They cross moors and confront the xenophobic attitudes of many Colombians who do not tolerate the situation. These Colombians do not remember, for example, that it was them who emigrated to Venezuela in the nineties during the crisis afflicted by economics and violence. It is said that more than 300,000 Colombians who lived in Venezuela have returned. It is also said that the situation here for Venezuelans is so difficult that many are returning to their country, and that people are seen walking on the highways to Colombia while others are returning to Venezuela. The specific relationship to HIV is that Venezuela no longer has the medicine for the virus. So those who have HIV in Venezuela must leave the country in an even more vulnerable position than the that of the other migrants’. Asides from looking for a roof, work, and some rooting, they must also look for their medicine, which is very expensive and the Colombian government only supplies through the public health system to people who were born in the country. The situation is overstressed in many ways. For example, up until last week, the Colombian nationality was given to more than 23,000 children who were born from Venezuelan parents on Colombian territory, and who up until now did not have a nationality, since the Venezuelan consulates have been closed down, or no longer exist. As you can see, there are many sides and facts to analyze within the debate. People say that this will bring about many social and cultural changes, as we have seen has happened in large migrations on both global and local scales. Yesterday I heard on the radio that there are over fifty thousand Venezuelans entering, daily, through the Colombian border. In the labs, we have been unraveling these stories, informations, statistics, and subjectivities. Understanding and finding information helps us situate ourselves in the territory in which we inhabit. In the lab, we try to give voice and space to reflect on these urgent themes.

The lab is being used by Colombians in majority. Almost all of them have HIV and arrived at the lab through the Liga Colombiana de lucha Contra el Sida, a definite ally to the lab.

The lab features 10 thematic sessions, five of which we have already done: The body in the arts, Lexical Memory, Art and borders, Art and HIV, Study group and networks of affect. These sessions have brought talks and collaborations that have been very clarifying about the situation. As you already know, the idea is for there to be a constant group, and I believe there will likely be around ten people who will arrive before the end of the lab for the presentation. The work methodology for this performance comes from tools that I have acquired during my Master’s in Theater and the Living Arts, which I completed at the National University of Bogotá some years ago. This Master’s is managed in large part by the directors of the Mapateatro theater company, which has a special interest in poetics that are related to memory and to that which is political, as well as social.

Sesión #1 – Contexto del cuerpo en las Artes

Sesión #2 – Memoria Léxica

Sesión #3 – Arte / VIH

Sesión #4 – Arte / Fronteras

A Conversation with Artist Eric Rhein

New York based artist Eric Rhein speaks about his two exhibits, Lifelines, which
have been on view in his home state of Kentucky.
Lifelines is an exhibition at two locations in Lexington: at Institute 193 through
July 27 th , and the Lexington’s 21c Museum Hotel, through the end of August.
Todd Lanier Lester, of the Luv ‘til it Hurts campaign, asked Eric about the
shows—and his current and ongoing concerns.

What is the significance of your showing your work in Kentucky?

First, I want to thank you for having this conversation with me. As it happens,
today is the last day of the part of the show that’s at Institute 193. While the
companion show at the 21c Museum Hotel runs through August, exhibitions are
fleeting and only those who are geographically near have the opportunity to see
them. So, via this conversation, it’s rewarding when my artwork and the history
embodied in it can contribute to the conversation around HIV and AIDS, beyond
the walls of those exhibitions.

But tell us: How is Kentucky a special place for you?

Presenting Lifelines in Kentucky has a particular resonance. My family roots are
in Kentucky, and a sense of heritage and lineage are important to me. My Uncle
Lige Clarke was a formative pioneer in the Gay Rights movement of the 1960’s
and 70’s. He and my mother grew up in Hindman: a tiny, rural town in
Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains—yet he had the fortitude to help lead the
way to an expansion in gay identity through his activism, like helping to
organize the first picket for Gay Rights at the White House in 1965, and also
founding and editing the first national gay newspaper, Gay, with his partner Jack
Nichols, in 1969. I see my drive to include my HIV status in the context of my
artwork as being linked to my uncle’s activism.

How does your memory of your uncle tie in with your own growth?

My uncle had a spiritual core, cultivated through his studies of Yoga and eastern
philosophies, and his appreciation of the great American poet Walt
Whitman—in fact, he always traveled with a copy of Whitman’s book-length
poem, Leaves of Grass. My uncle’s legacy—a liberated vision of life as a gay
man—was passed to me through my encountering autobiographical books
which he wrote with his partner Jack Nichols. That was just when I was entering
puberty and finding myself. Their book about their relationship and activism, I
Have More Fun With You Than Anybody, continues to inspire me. Further, AIDS
activism—which has a spiritual aspect—has contributed to the evolution and
visibility of LGBTQ identity.

I’m quite taken with the title of the two shows: Lifelines. Where does this title
come from?

In the Institute 193 show is a series of three photos that I call Me with Ken. A
photo, from that series, is titled Lifeline. So the name of the overall exhibit
comes from that—yet reaches beyond to encompass themes running
throughout my work and my purpose for showing it. In that Me with Ken series
(which is from 1996) I’m pictured with my then boyfriend Ken, and it was
during the summer that protease inhibitors were initially released. Due to my
having been on those new medications, as part of a study, I was rapidly gaining
a renewed vitality. Ken hadn’t yet accessed the protease inhibitors, and was on
daily IV drips for declining health. Hence “lifelines” refers to this, and to a larger
interconnectedness as well. The intimacy and tenderness, heightened within
that period of shared vulnerability and mutual-caring, is shown in that series of
photos—and is something that I hope runs through my body of work, from my
photographs –to my AIDS Memorial Leaves.

I know that your project, Leaves, is an important part of your body of work. Can
you tell us about it?

Leaves is an ongoing project which is a growing memorial to those I personally
knew who died of complications from AIDS. For each individual (and sometimes
for couples), I express my sense of them through a wire outline of a leaf.
Lifelines also points to an intergenerational exchange that is important to me.
When Paul Brown, the director of Institute 193 first came to my studio, two
years ago, it came out that he was about to turn 27, the same age I was when I

tested HIV positive in 1987. He had gravitated to my portfolio of photographs
depicted me and my companions in the 1990’s, sighting that they affirmed an
intimacy during the height of the AIDS epidemic, which contradicted the
narrative he’d been given when he first came out. Paul shared that his coming
out, like many men of his generation, was colored by associating being gay with
HIV—and, consequently, fear of sexual expression. Shifting the narrative he’d
inherited to a more expanded one, was primary to our working together.

Can you say a bit more about the relation of HIV to your artwork and life?

Having lived with HIV for just over three decades, I’ve found that there’s a real
potential for transcendence—yes, even within this complex history of
vulnerability, loss, and survival (and, maybe, sometimes, because of it.) Sharing
my artwork, which came through my experience of HIV and AIDS—and sharing
it with younger generations—brings a sense of purpose and healing.

I hear that you have written a piece that corresponds with many of the themes
you’ve explored in your artwork (and which we just talked about). Can you tell
me more? Will we have access to it soon?

Yes, “The Gathering” is a piece that I’m happy to share with the Luv ‘til it Hurts
community—and I’m glad to send it along soon, to be available on the website.

One more thing: is it true that there’s a book coming out on your work?

Yes. It too will be titled Lifelines—and will come out early next year.

  • Rain (self-portrait), 1994 Silver gelatin print, 20x16 inches

= = = = = = =
Lifelines, an exhibit of Eric Rhein’s work, continues at the 2c Museum Hotel
through the end of August, 2019.
21c Museum Hotel
127 West Main Street
Lexington, Kentucky 40507
Eric’s website is: http://www.ericrhein.com

= = = = = = = =

Chateau Truvada


When I was raped, first he bought me cigarettes.
Both of us hilariously drunk, he followed me
into the bathroom, came up behind, then yanked
my pants down and pushed me into the tub.
This was at some rich girl’s apartment downtown.
When we were invited to the same wedding
(years later) and I told the groom why I didn’t want
to see him again, same boy texted me about
“what you think happened that night” because
he never realized what he did, maybe, scarily
easy to believe how obliviousness works.
But I remember: days later, going to the clinic,
telling them I was assaulted, getting tested.
“Oh honey, why didn’t you go to the police?”
Back then I didn’t fuck sober and loathed my body.
In 2012 the FDA approved Truvada as PrEP.
Antiretroviral medicines were used as post-exposure
prophylaxis on an “occupational” basis for nurses
stuck with needles, risked by strange blood. Now
taking pills as prevention was becoming a thing.
I researched the drug and went to Callen-Lorde
where a tidy doctor shot me down, denying the script
because “you’re not a sex worker” and telling me,
“Just try not to hook up with guys when you drink.”
I thought I’d hate him when I seroconverted.
There was an unreasonable terror situated bone-
deep that belied comprehension, the magical
thinking convincing me a virus could possibly
render you less worthy of love. What a fucking lie.
I realize that stories about HIV don’t have to be
couched in medical concern or whited moralization.
Nothing othering will gain subsists reputedly,
as a game tide of men turns on the axis of knowing.


“Good luck with your little blue pill!” spat the poet,
suspicious of Pharma, plague survivor, watched
a boyfriend end on AZT (his breath smelled chemically).
“Bet you never had to go back into the closest
just so you could die in your childhood bedroom.”
My therapist wants me to have a problem with sex
but I figured out most of my shit before I got there.
He asked me if I thought older gay men might
be jealous of the resurgent bodily freedom
enjoyed finally by an undeserving generation
who never threw their friends’ corpses at Congress
nor made the world budge to stanch the crisis.
I’ve waged private battles, monumental to myself,
know the value of information and communication,
after no help from parents, teachers, or the government.
The generation preceding, thrown away in the trash:
Bob Hope smiled, “The Statue of Liberty has AIDS!
She either got it from the mouth of the Hudson or
the Staten Island ferry.” Arriving untrammeled
at a healthy praxis, let me tell you friends, is no light
feat after that kind of cruelty routed the discourse.
When HIV enters your body, it expects open doors,
receptive cells to infect and use to replicate itself,
but what if there was an intervention to block the enzyme,
preventing reverse transcription, leaving the virus to die?
That sounded like science fiction to some, slut shamers
reveled in insinuation, even gay nonprofits clutched
their pearls for years, but best practices evolved,
I switched doctors, and now I get a monthly bottle
of ocean blue gum drops that costs more than
the computer on which I am typing this poem.
I swallow them at golden hour, becoming now an
active participant in the course of my sexual health.


Put on your raincoats, lads, there’s a storm outside!
Scary posters incriminate my sexuality: pleasure,
judgment, oblivion. Not even in the worst of it
did the men stop fucking; so raze the dunes, drown
the piers, lock the bathhouses forever, convert a
traffic island into an adorable memorial for those
who left this place screaming and covered in blood…
none of it matters to a cock clothed in your rectum.
Thank you, violent advocates with incursive demands,
inscribing your church-crushing rage into the concord,
whose bravery forged a safer home for homos to come.
Bless you, glittery whores: swapping fluids, dressing up,
taking what you need to survive, cunningly challenging
this heteronormative panopticon they built around us.
Nobody taught me much; I figured it out on my own
with some help from my friends and perfect strangers.
The world is full of people diagnosed yesterday
and slow progressors who knew they had HIV
back when it was a different acronym. Some of us
take many pills, others only one; technology ameliorates
what was once a plague and these cherished pellets
won’t always remain under strict corporate control.
The patents will break, options increase, and culture
habilitates glacially around the needs of others.
Some may presume we’re just chilling atop
Chateau Truvada, painting our nails, but we
made it through some treacherous shit to get here
and nobody’s diminishing the struggle of the past
by radically caring for ourselves in the present.
So I hope you don’t find me to be too didactic,
cliché, or sentimental in ending the poem with this:
Undetectable equals untransmittable, treatment
is prevention, ACT UP, fight back, end AIDS!

Luv Til It Hurts

I am grateful for community. For me, I find the most healing when I find community with others living with HIV. When I can share and hold space with another survivor (anyone still living with the virus is a survivor). It means the world to meet another person, who is a survivor of all the shame, guilt, and trauma that comes with being HIV positive. Healing happens when you find another person who is willing to trust you, and share that they are HIV positive. I find healing when I can share, hold space, and facilitate a discussion with 3 other young people living with HIV. I find healing when we can talk about our shared struggles, and support one another without any filters, without any judgement, or without any shame or stigma in the room. When I am in this kind of space, I don’t need to explain to anyone what it’s like to be living with HIV. Everyone in the room just gets it already, no explanations necessary. A space that is affirming, and truly free from the feeling of: “sometimes it feels like HIV negative people will never get it.” That is a very rare space to find.

Instead of the tired broken record messages of: “get tested, know your status, & know your partner(s)’ status,” here is another effective intervention: Luv Til It Hurts. Listen, and engage, with this artist-led project on HIV & stigma, that centers the stories and struggles of people living with HIV.

I have met young people who are HIV positive, who were diagnosed as early as 16 years old. I was diagnosed when I was 20. I was not informed or educated about PEP as a way to protect myself, when my sexual partner decided to take the condom off; without my consent, and without me knowing. PrEP was approved by the FDA the same summer that I was diagnosed with HIV. But even after PrEP was FDA approved, there were many healthcare professionals who still did not believe the science behind PrEP. “How do we end stigma?” You might ask? No, it is not just to get tested regularly, and to always know your status (but those are definitely important too). Continue the efforts, and help spread the good news about TasP (Treatment as Prevention), U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable), and PrEP. When someone questions and does not believe in the truth, science, validity, and effectiveness of PrEP, they continue to perpetuate stigma and ignorance. The perpetuation of this type of stigma and ignorance, is oppressive to people living with HIV. People who are ignorant to PrEP and U=U, will continue to stigmatize and oppress people living with HIV. (If you are reading this article and have never heard of U=U or PrEP, please take the time to educate yourself about them. Google is free.)

Speaking of undetectable: Did you know that HIV is most transmittable when someone recently seroconverts (when someone becomes newly infected with HIV)? This is when someone’s viral load (amount of virus in their bloodstream) is at the highest levels (sometimes in millions). The goal of treatment is to get the viral load to undetectable, or to a minimal amount in the bloodstream to the point that someone is unable to transmit the virus on to another person. However, when someone recently seroconverts, this is (most often) the period of time, before someone decides to get tested. This is the time, before a person learns their diagnosis, that they are HIV positive. Guess what happens when this person accidentally forgets to use a condom? Guess what happens when this person chooses to have unprotected sex with someone because they think they are HIV negative (but they’re actually unknowingly, HIV positive)? Yup, that’s right. That’s how HIV continues to spread silently, without anyone knowing. When people are not getting tested and not knowing their status because of stigma, fear, shame, and guilt, that is what continues the spread of the virus. HIV does not continue to spread from people who are undetectable & untransmittable. Not enough people know this, because the conversations that are happening about HIV, are not being pushed or driven by the stories, voices, and experiences of people living with HIV.

Luv Til It Hurts, for me, means to love and care for people living with HIV, even if they may never achieve viral suppression. People living with HIV deserve to be loved and cared for even after they become virally suppressed, because our journeys do not end at undetectable or at viral suppression. People living with HIV need more than support getting to undetectable (I’m looking at you, public health care model without the examination and consideration of the many challenges and barriers of mental health for people living with HIV, from a trauma-informed lens). Mental health is a public health issue, most especially for people living with HIV. People living with HIV need people to know that they are not alone in this battle. People living with HIV need to live in community with others like them, where they can find healing through shared and collective struggle. Young people living with HIV need to be able to find community with other young people living with HIV. These young people need to share their stories and experiences, and their stories need to be heard by the world. The voices and experiences of people living with HIV need to be centered, and at the forefront of discussions about HIV & STI prevention. This is one of the many approaches to ending stigma, and winning the fight against HIV & AIDS. This is how we Luv Til It Hurts.

When people living with HIV are under attack, what do we do? ACT UP! FIGHT BACK! FIGHT AIDS! And Luv Til It Hurts.

Malaya Mañacop, LMSW

September 27, 2018

Luv ’til it Hurts


Across generations of continents
What do it mean to be haunted?

by a virus. A bluegrass
grandma in Sparta, Tennessee died today;

So did Ntozake Shange.

I wonder is it was they knew each other?
Ntozake and grandma?

the yellow / the red / the Asian pacific islander /
the poor poor white / the black / the trans girl /
the doula / the woman / the social worker / the rich /
the nuyorican / the new yawker /the southern belle /
the global south /Brasil / the brown-black / AMEM
and thank you /the activist / the artivist / the Zion / the poet /
the visual artist / the scholar / the writer / the shunned /
the convener / the  loved / the forsaken

Ain’t it

a Universe of Us?

got queer children in common?

Somewhere in the beveled glitter of rainbows
A proximal history melts us into lemon drops

America’s punk daughters and sons sure know how to tie a not

How else to cut down a noose?
cept with the knife’s edge of a fem queen’s heel
and an icon’s death drop

tonight Love ‘til it Hurts launched
right where we landed simulcast in this
historic nyc LGBT Center Auditorium
on 13th Street just west of Seventh Avenue South 

breathing the unrequited ash suffusing St. Vincent’s biosphere

in this west village five to six block radius
a repurposed hospital building ain’t never lose it’s mission
here lies a fertile field endlessly pregnant with ghosts

Where NYC’s AIDS patients had flooded-in parched
for something like water & comfort on the hapless occasion
of their tsunami life and death

what do it mean to be haunted by a virus?

Tonight there is a Taipei hiv-positive gay boy in here
lending us an innervision. A love petri dish is bubbling over
in his terrified eyes

He’s going back home soon; His country everywhere
infectious with stigma

the medicine men don’t make pills for that.

Kai’s momma don’t know yet his secret.
Her son a host.

His soul-force, warm porcelain, nurses a kindling tide
swayed with tenderness and courage and rage
and grief and joy we can all touch
when we meet him

he has tasted here in nyc some portion of his soul’s own freedom
the call. we hear it.                    don’t u?

its in the blood its in the blood-water
earnest and quiet and true

It hurts to spring out of a cage smiling
It hurts to bounce too hard against a Tree

In the photos he has shown us.
He is calling us home

He is a gift.

He does not quite know how powerful he is yet.


row after freckled row in this ancestor scented auditorium
every where in view an horizon of all-american fauna
sat blowing in the fall wind

we watch at the intersection
wave after seceding wave
come in

ntozake’s fresh unencumbered ghost
laughs in panorama with all the traffic lights

sitting to my right a tsunami flew in from Edmonton

a boy burning himself to the bone
body fluid born too hot
for a working class town

finds a hungry pandemic after its stolen
the lion share of his bedfellows and wet-dreams
left him spurned already in a hotbed
of First Nation descendants and poor immigrants

a psychic says his former lover in a past life must have been a dandy
from the high hills of america’s west coast

AIDS always had such fashion sense
Here today gone tomorrow
baroque Baudeliere bad ass.

world turned upside down
negative [survey says] is a positive health outcome
if only it were so simple in these blood rich oil fields
reverse transcriptase trenches mine with the nuclear
parochial sanctimony of a moral majority
plus and minus everybody else

the top’s bottom
the bottom’s top
the infected and the un-infected
the bound and the unbound
the buttoned down and the unbuttoned
the prude and the wanderlust
if only our kind came readied to nurse
each ours very own chance at living?

meanwhile Kai’s photos stream behind us un-announced
powerful enough?

[A prayer becomes an affirmation]

to tell their own story

to teach us?

[if even by omission]

the history of unintended

how silent and unbeknownst a virus haunts what it hunts
to occupy the hearts and minds of its prey

This project warrants no apology
the activists job is never done.

Perhaps the best ones wrastle
the too tight tendons
of their own too tidy towns

their own dissembled selves
born biting at the bit
kicking the stables

cut their teeth earn their chops
cross the stigma-shorn frontiers
imbued to their own origins

to discover the wealth
of what it could mean to survive
a pandemic before it kills you.

Whether you have it or not
Whether you will get it

or not

To find a cause, greater than oneself,
throbbing with its own life
beyond the boundaries of caste
and circumstance

to lay among the shunned and the dying
the survived and the surviving
the besieged and the otherwise well off
the castaway and the unmoored

in search of what is possible of a self
inside the catacombs of a womanist’s theory
breathing still at Union Theological Seminary
right where it was found

in new york city
inside the bodies of black women
who had to have known
long before they got there

the evidence of their own being
must be for all civilization
a salvation unto itself.


Now are you gonna start dressing like a girl?

Some questions bury their own answers
inside the ferment whisper of unasked breath.

She was born inside the navel concave of a question
marked for transition from the beginning

a Filipina girl born into someone else’s body
run up the west coast Interstate 5 like a spine
run up the American dream like a tourist with tangled roots

immigrant parents born knowing tourism must be a fantasy
long before it is a business.

A brother in Redding California asks his teenage sibling an answer
to his own redwood question

Before he outs him for talking to a boy


so seismic a proposition to ask a world for: an understanding.
boys and girls are born whole and un-belonging

these parts
they are shells

we can take them on
we can take them off
for the sake of our selves

we are quite simply who we feel we are

Malaya Malaya

Rehearse with me the freedom wolverine-knit
into the soul–spine of that name

She is a brook delicate and frothing
There is fertility in her bones
Like any fresh water river she is born caretaking
A sea of west coast salmon yelping against the tide

Malaya Malaya

She is an undertaking

her own precious project
She intends on becoming the name of herself
Over and over again

feminist courses are no panacea
each intersection
corset a millstone to its own precipice

we who believe in freedom               can not rest
we who believe in freedom              can not rest               until comes

Malaya Malaya

for women of color

Malaya Malaya

there is no way made for us
we must make our way
each every time

Kai too is the beginning of an answer
To Malaya’s own unasked question

To see herself?

freed inside the swelling shadow of her own story
To bear witness how her light must-will,
so numinously, contend with that darkness

A heart pricked too young by a virus
for the which she was offered no viable
first or second language

with which to negotiate an actionable line of defense

Had not quite begun their rally

A whole body of stories snagged between
the too-titan lexicon of an aeon. AIDS HIV unspelling
their own death sentence

whole acronyms still sneezing mouth uncovered
their nubile stigma into a generation’s consciousness
before and after they

re-imagine themselves
a desiccate and crumbled fiction
beneath the hard-packed weight
of their own histories

There is a new way.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

these young ones are making it up as they go
the olde warrior’s stories are not enough
for these young bloods

navigating a new virus
in a haint town
in a new time

they will teach us how to read the next chapter
they will teach us how to listen.

AIDS 2018 Journal

“It is just another coin in the pouch. Sometimes it comes out heads; it’s a blessing. Sometimes it comes out tails; it’s a curse”. — Frederick Weston.

As I have struggled at the many crossroads in my life, I have never thought one day I will embrace such thing that I used to disregard in my everyday life, and even carry it go on a journey for staying alive. To continue my research on HIV/ AIDS, I traveled to the city which is 12 hours different from my motherland, selling myself to explain my story and my project often and often, like the endless stage. There were happiness and disappointment in this unpredictable magical script; sometimes I even feel like I might have already seen it all, but of course, I have not, since I am merely a human being who is trying to find the connection as the lifeline to keep going. It seems like the world did hear my hunger, once again I had the opportunity to visit a new land where I have never been, I flew to Amsterdam for the 2018 International AIDS Conference from the surreal life in New York.

Former sex worker Dinah de Riquet-Bons giving the speech at the opening.

The theme of AIDS 2018 is “Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges.”With the idea to create the bridge to link the right ground, the provider, researcher, social worker, artist, activist, and even the sales around the world who works in the AIDS field, all travel to Amsterdam for this biennial reunion. The 15,000 AIDS delegates from 160 countries take to the halls to share their research, experiences, and insights from the global response to HIV. The opening ceremony was one of the moments that made my sight misty from hearing those who already engage with the AIDS fight for a long time, and of course the voice of the unignorable youth force.

I was fortuned to receive the scholarship’ support for this trip as a young artist/ activist from Taiwan and sharing the room with my case manager Issac. By offering more than 1,100 scholarships, the conference organizers made the conference accessible to people from resource-limited settings, researchers, young people, key and vulnerable populations and community representatives.

Issac is checking the daily sessions on the conference’s app.

The young Filipino American researcher Alex Adia who led the research to the HIV-positive individuals to his homeland Malina. Devmi Dampella and Richa Saivi, the two youth advocate working in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights at Family Planning Association(FPA) in Sri Lanka and India. Ghaith Ghaffari, a doctor and TV presenter in Baghdad, Iraq. Sophie Ryder-Jones Kortenbruck, my brave “sister” who just started her journey of activism to speak for the female HIV-positive community in Berlin through the broadcast and comedy show. I connected with these beautiful souls through the potluck lunch of the scholarship community, each of us has the different motivation and story to make this connection happen.

Alex holding the postcard of my project Humans As Hosts with the information of Luv ’til it Hurts.
Ghaith Ghaffari and Devmi Dampella.
One of the portrait pieces of Humans As Hosts on the cover of The HIV Howler issue 3.

This opportunity to AIDS 2018 has also made my participation in The HIV Howler possible. One month after I submitted my scholarship application, I received the invitation from the lovely publisher/editor Jessica Whitbread and Anthea Black, to present an in-conversation piece with the Manuel Solano by the coordinating and editing of Theodore Kerr. The conversation not only shows both of our vulnerability as an artist, and also the living situation in both of our surrounding. This artist newspaper recruited the arts from the poz artist in different nations, it first published at the conference in Amsterdam and now in Toronto.

The lovely couple Jessica and Anthea, they dedicate to create AIDS activism in multiple ways.
The provider of olvg and his friend.
A discussion between the researcher from Hongkong, China and a doctor and artist from Taiwan.
Midnight Poonkasetwattana and Inad Quinones Rendon from apcom.

In this 7-days inspiration, most of my magical moment happened at Global Village. It was way beyond my imagination that how the artist/activist from different nations deliver their faith and necessity. The Global Village space itself is a big platform for bearing the multiple dialogue and magical coincidence. I remember that unexpected conversation about The HIV Howler, Humans As Hosts and Luv ’til it Hurts with the local health community center olvg, the excellent photobook “Invisible Lives” topic on the key population of HIV in different regions by Colet van der Ven and Adriaan Backer, the nice meeting with Carué ContreirasCarué Contreiras to learn the current situation and his story in Sao Paulo, The discussion for future collaboration with Midnight Poonkasetwattana and Inad Quinones Rendon from apcom. And most importantly, to engage more with the Taiwanese community. At this once in a lifetime chance, we spoke about to create the event for World AIDS Day event in Taiwan, and how can we develop the workshops for the providers to erase the stigma and rejection against the HIV-positive individuals. The conversations and networks that I gain during the period of the conference reveal the new page my journey as an activist and the beginning of this newborn AIDS campaign: Luv ’til it Hurts.

Colet van der Ven and Adriaan Backer, the author and photographer of Invisible Lives.

Letter Report

Hi all this is a report that the musician that worked with me producing and thinking the music of my last completed worked named “Fantasia casi soneto después de una lectura de dan(c)e” sent me after going to ArteBA Focus (version of the big art fair in Buenos Aires done by the same people):

Hi, Dudu, how’s it going?

I was on ArteBA Focus for a while, all right. I give you a brief report: The work was in a plasma TV of acceptable size, but had no headphones, and the environment was too noisy to be heard well with the speakers of the device. Also, when I went, the video had a jump, a line of slight horizontal digital noise, which appeared cyclically and affected everything, video and audio. Still, it could be said that, given the context, the work was “intelligible”, and in fact, I saw several people stop to look at it for a while. Very good photos of you too, I liked them.

The sample, in general ok, although nothing dazzled me: – [

After reading this email this morning I felt like taking this as a chance to say more and to send it to you, curators and people working and deciding about art nowadays.

I am now living in Frankfurt and these pasts days had been the first depressive days I had here.

After being yelled while transporting myself through the city twice, Friday around 8AM and Saturday around 00AM, I decided to create a new sound work called “I love you Frankfurt”, that actually I had this idea way before but now it´s urgent for me to do it. Will be done soon hopefully.

As I am far from my Umbanda Terreiro in São Paulo, I have to appeal to some improvised healing like having a haircut today as I always do when feeling down. Today my haircut was only to leave the knife I have tattooed in my head visible to others. Now I feel cold in my head.

Great haircut to go to my Ausländerbehörde Frankfurt (Foreigners Department) meeting in 20 days! To try to get my visa, not having reached the money I need or either a sponsor who could sign a letter. Yet.

I never forget listening to Cuauhtémoc Medina talking about the meaning of Curatore.: those who used to take care…of money (back then).

But I sold two photos in the art fair! From which I have to discount half from both for the galley (fair) and production of everything (fair). I need now to think how to do to make the money travel from Buenos Aires to Frankfurt. Hopefully a friend will carry the papers for me.

Thinking about this art fair experience I do need to think of doing an exhibition soon, and I do have works ongoing:

I’m waiting for a dramaturge called Carol to come back to Guissen (next to Frankfurt) from Japan (she was at Kyoto experiment) to start a new project I already started here: performative film about a choir that sings problems in German. Their problems doesn´t seem the same as mine problems. I have a lot of ideas already for this, it´s exciting.

And I also decided to continue my blind project video with only sound, with the two amazing persons Luiz Carlos and Paula who are in São Paulo. Something good will come out from this as long as I can still be here to use the studio sound at school!

I also delivered a project here to see if I can get money for it, it´s called Incapazes. In a way it´s about art and care. A tiny for of this film was part of Jessica Gogan´s video about art and care where the curator Ricardo Resende that helped me in the beggining with this project as curator of Museu Bispo do Rosario (the museum that actually helped to get into the hospital as a pacient) I sent already this project for an open call in São Paulo, they didn´t choose it.

I started “Incapazes” last December in a psychiatric hospital in Rio de Janeiro. The material is waiting in my external hard drive and few notebooks, handwritten diaries, and now the project has another layer: doing a field research about art and madness and care here in Frankfurt starting with Heinrich Hoffman and the Sammlung Prinzhorn collection. Finger crossed.

I cried twice this weekend and talked with my lover who is now going back also from Japan to Salvador da Bahia. We talked about HIV and care and love…

And this email is mainly because I´ve been thinking about CARE.

What am I doing?

Today I thought a lot about what Willem de Rooij said in our first class meeting, in a way is like a ritual for him to send a photo of Nancy Reagan with the slogan Just Say No.

We all need to think a little more about care, and this should be translated to what we do. I felt really surprised reading that the city where I studied and grew up and decided to be an artist is or was at list for a couple days “An Art Basel City”. What does this means? I don´t get it. Are they buying the city or renting it? How are they helping there or what is their real interest? I´m curious (not that much reall). But one thing takes me to the other and seeing all those # and my work involved did affected me while thinking about CARE.

And finally: I wanted to deliver “Fantasia casi soneto después de una lectura de dan(c)e” with English subtitles for all of you but seems that I can´t download the program I´m used to use for this kind of work. So I will have to wait for this. Any way, the Spanish version of a work done during 7 months in what seems to be now an Art Basel City, the lovely but weird Buenos Aires FUCK MACRI, LOL:

“The Cure for AIDS is Kindness….”

The Social Practice of Jessica Lynn Whitbread

My community mother, Darien Taylor, was one of the first women living with HIV to do direct action with AIDS ACTION NOW! in Toronto in the late 80s – she’s seen a lot. Darien said that I was a love warrior, and what I advocate for was people being and feeling loved. Which I guess is different than people being accepted because being loved, feeling sexy, being desired, or getting fucked ultimately come with a sense of feeling good and at a deeper level change our quality of life. I had a conversation with a taxi driver in Johannesburg once who asked me if there was a cure for AIDS, I told him yes – kindness. For many people living with HIV and those who are marginalized by ability, age, class, and so on life really sucks sometime and through my projects such as LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN, Tea Time, and No Pants No Problem I aim to change people’s sense of wellbeing at both the micro and macro levels. I believe that role modeling how to be a good friend, lover, family member or service provider has effects that ripple through our communities. People notice. People feel it. I feel it.

LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN is a holiday/movement/project(s) to celebrate women living with HIV in our communities every year from February 1-14th. Basically, people are asked to do something nice for themselves as women living with HIV and/or their communities as friends. These events/actions/gestures are driven not by donors or grants, but by people who actually just want to do and perhaps feel something nice. There is something like 5000+ individuals and about 125 organizations implementing activities each year (which for me is a little mind blowing organizing such a thing with ZERO budget-ha). Communities are incredibly amazing and creative from dance parties and secret talk show giveaways in India, candle making in Nigeria, quilting in Jamaica and Barbados, soap making for trans women in Puerto Rico to card making in NYC. My heart is full of emotion every February as I’m always inspired by what projects people come up with. Most years I do my own person intervention, which usually includes stitching a banner. In 2015, I stiched one for my sisters in Eastern Europe and Central Asia that said “Любите Позитивные Женщин” and took photos of different people in Jamaica, New York City, and Toronto holding it – these were posted on the LPW social media. Within a few days a copy cat banner was made in Ukraine and posted, and then another, and another all in Russian. It was so amazing to actually experience your work having an impact in real time. In 2018 there were about 15 different LPW projects in the region.

Another one of my long term projects is No Pants No Problem. NPNP was a way for me as a young 20 year something year old how to exist as a queer, women living with HIV. Which to be honest, with not many role models is a little difficult. It is rare that women living with HIV are ever depicted as sexy, sexual or queer, especially at that time. So what I did was created a world where I (and eventually others) could explore their sexuality and gender without disclosure being a barrier. In this world we all feel a variety of levels of awkwardness dancing in our underwear, but ultimately realize that we didn’t seem to mind too much when we realize that we forgot our pants at the party the night before (true story of a friend of mine). Working with other artists to create the NPNP experience (such as performance artists: Morgan M. Page, Mikiki, Glam Gam, House of Hopelezz, Kia LaBeija), NPNP is a collective practice that, like most things I do, more about the process than the end result. NPNP has been produced on 5 continents ranging from 50 – 1200+ people. I’m not a size queen in this respect.

I like to work on projects that have longevity and eventually are adapted by others to foster community building, but really most of all, people feeling good. At the core of my projects is myself. They are a representation to things that I often need in my life – so have lots of sex and feel loved I guess.


Coletivo Amem – São Paulo <> NYC

Coletivo Amem is a São Paulo-based artistic collective that promotes festivals, performances and debates focusing on race, class, gender, and public health. 

Coletivo Amem ‘occupies’ São Paulo’s Container Theatre during Virada Cultural 2018.

For the last two years Coletivo Amem and House of Zion (Brasil) have visited NYC during Black Pride and #HouseLivesMatter.

The House of Zion in Brasil came about during a 2016 visit to São Paulo by New York’s Pony Zion.