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Winter 2004
Art in the Time of AIDS
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Daily Bruin staff at work

Make Art/Stop AIDS conference attendees take to the streets of Kolkata.

Gere agrees with that assessment. He recalls one particularly revelatory moment that seemed to galvanize participants. During the first day of the conference, Gere recounts, some of the artists wondered why there were no HIV-positive people in attendance.

“I said, ‘But they are here,’ ” Gere recalls. “That was part of the point, to show that people infected with HIV come in all shapes and sizes, that they look like your neighbor, that the disease shows no discrimination.”

A bit later, one of the participants ran back to his room and grabbed a T-shirt on which was printed: “HIV Positive.” He shared with the group how wearing the shirt helped to dispel some of the stigma surrounding HIV in the town in South Africa where he lives.

The story electrified the group. Soon everyone, from artists to activists to the American consul general and Gere’s two adopted children were marching down the streets of Kolkata wearing T-shirts proclaiming “HIV Positive” in bold black and red letters.

“We got a lovely reaction. People asked questions, including where to be tested. “They shook our hands,” Gere marvels. “It was another turning point for the HIV positives in the group, to learn that risk can be taken and the effects can be positive; to learn that humanity is shared. It is incredibly life-changing to be in the midst of that, to learn how it feels to be supported that way.”

Gere’s work is exactly the type of innovative research that UCLA’s International Institute is designed to support, says Geoffrey Garrett, vice provost and dean of the institute. This research “will influence how things are taught in the classroom as well as policy debates in the United States and other countries,” he says. “David’s Make Art/Stop AIDS project perfectly fits the bill. He brings immense energy, incredible commitment, and unfailing good humor and grace to everything he touches. In David’s case the cliché is true; he really is making the world a better place.”


2005 The Regents of the University of California