Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
So often throughout the history of the devastating epidemic, many of the stories we have heard about the impact of HIV/AIDS have centered on death, loss and anger. Not enough funding or treatment or prevention efforts. Not enough being done or said to stop the passing of loved ones. Way, way too much silence.
In this week’s issue of Between The Lines, we celebrate two very different – but also intrinsically linked – stories of individuals who have triumphed over an HIV-positive diagnosis and have since spent their lives addressing both this and other important societal issues through their work.
Bill Jones is a New York-based choreographer, head of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and the creator of “Fondly Do We Hope, Fervently Do We Pray,” a multimedia dance performance honoring the life and work of Abraham Lincoln that is coming to Ann Arbor’s Power Center Jan. 22 and 23. Jones, who was diagnosed with HIV and lost his partner, Zane, to AIDS in the late 1980s, spoke out about the epidemic in his 1994 performance “Still/Here,” complete with controversial dancers dressed as red blood platelets.
In another part the country is Rosie Hayes, a Michigan-raised ex-drug addict and sex worker who fought to escape her destructive lifestyle, only to come out with an HIV-positive diagnosis. Instead of retreating to her past ways, or even remaining silent, Hayes now tells her story across the nation to various groups, spreading inspiration and hope that there can be life after an HIV diagnosis.
And very full lives at that, in the cases of both Hayes and Jones.
They are two vastly different people. One is a gay male dancer, the other a straight, married mother and motivational speaker; one is college educated and classically trained, the other an escapee from a life on the streets. But both have taken a diagnosis that could very well have meant death and turned it into a celebration of life. Both have used their status as HIV positive to combat negative stigma surrounding the virus. Both are the types of stories that we, as advocates and sufferers in the epidemic, need to hear to keep ourselves optimistic, keep the work going and keep silence surrounding HIV/AIDS non-existent.
Both Jones and Hayes stand as proof that no matter where you come from or who you are, there is life after HIV, and it can be an incredibly fulfilling and meaningful life.
It’s not to say that either touts their illness as no big deal. Jones’ “Still/Here” explored the complications of survival and management though dance, combined with real-life interviews with people suffering from chronic illnesses. Hayes spreads her message of both hope – but also of keeping safe from the lifestyle she fell into – not only to her audiences, but to her own children.
And in sharing – whether though dance, song or simply discussion – the battle against HIV/AIDS continues. Hopefully, thanks to people like Jones and Hayes, with a little bit of optimism.