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Devize Co’s theatrical production, STIGMA, tackles the stigma surrounding people living with HIV.

There is a wide acceptance that the creative arts space has a significant role in promoting health and wellbeing. For the last two years, STIGMA has engaged audiences around Melbourne through dance, movement and physical encounters. STIGMA has been a powerful mediator in deepening the understanding and experience of HIV and stigma by giving attention to an issue that runs so deep for people living with HIV.

After successful shows at Midsumma and Fringe Festivals, STIGMA is taking its message to rural audiences with its first performance in Bendigo on 11 May 2018.


Removing HIV from the shadows

STIGMA draws inspiration from the creator’s own experience as well as a diverse range people who live with HIV. The goal was to create a strong message that would resonate with any audience member.

“Stigma is stigma, said director Darren Vizer. People can relate because most have experienced stigma in some form whether it’s directed at their appearance, gender or religion.”

“I created this work because I am living with HIV and have been stigmatised because of it. I’m sick of it; it’s exhausting and I want to help people understand what it is like to live with this virus and to humanise the people who have it.”

STIGMA also aims to change the perceptions people may have of those living with HIV and includes the stories of women and heterosexual men living with the virus. A visual and artistic platform helps those stories to be better articulated and understood.

Living Positive Victoria has extended its reach around HIV stigma through working with artists, photographers and other art practitioners. They have an ability to bring the lived experience of HIV stigma to life through telling personal stories and it’s another way to reach those who may receive and understand information differently.

“Darren’s story is just one of many that Living Positive Victoria has been able to help bring to life through STIGMA,” said Living Positive Victoria Cultural Engagement Officer, Brenton Geyer. “The effect of storytelling is multi-dimensional whether it be through dance, photography or drawing. The process of developing and presenting creative work can have a profound effect on those at the core of the process, as well as those audiences who experience it.”

“The immediate and lasting effects are informative, educative and life changing,” said Geyer.

The next STIGMA performance will take place on 11 May at The Engine Room in Bendigo followed by a Q&A session with the performers and members of the regional Victorian HIV community.

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