Contact(s): Molly Pearson & Ted Kerr

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The WHAT WOULD AN HIV DOULA DO? (WWHIVDD) collective is a North American community of people joined in response to the ongoing AIDS Crisis. We engage community through public events and workshops as part of the ongoing AIDS response, and provide a lens to best understand and support the life saving contributions various people across disciplines have made and continue to make within the epidemic. We understand a doula as someone in community who holds space for others during times of transition. For us, HIV is a series of transitions that does not start with being tested, nor end with treatment or death. No one gets HIV alone, so no one should have to deal with it alone.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, at the end of 2016, there were 6,145 persons living with HIV in the region, with the number of people living with HIV increasing every year since 2007. These statistics tell us that while transmission rates of HIV are not going down, people living with the virus are also living longer. At the same time, Missouri has made international headlines for the state’s unjust laws which criminalize people living with HIV. By and large, HIV, along with the stigma and criminalization that comes with the virus, impacts communities in our area already dealing with systemic challenges for survival.

LGBTQ, Black, and Communities of Color dealing with poverty, housing insecurity, and the war on drugs are over represented in new and existing cases of HIV.

There is a need for a deeper level of community engagement in the St. Louis region surrounding HIV and AIDS, one that highlights the survival skills of these impacted communities, draws attention to systemic challenges, and is inclusive of our city’s profound history when it comes the virus. For example, Robert Rayford (1953-1969), a Black American teenager, who lived on Delmar in the Carr Square/Downtown West neighborhood, can be considered one of the first documented AIDS-related deaths in the United States. Why is his story seldom told? What does his story tell us about who lives, dies, and is remembered in the US? Can telling his story improve life chances for people living with HIV and impacted communities?

The inaugural St. Louis WWHIVDD discussion will take place on June 9 at UrbArts. Refreshments will be provided. Writer Ted Kerr and social worker Molly Pearson propose to facilitate a discussion about the relationships between art, social work, and public health, exploring the following:

● Where are the similarities across disciplines? The differences?

● Where are the points of possible and established collaboration?

● How do we define “care”? What does care look like in practice?

● What are the ways that people use community, culture, and care to improve their own lives?

This discussion will take place on June 9 at UrbArts. The event will be audio recorded, and photographed. We will provide discussion outcomes from the event online and at future WWHIVDD events. UrbArts founder and Executive Director MK Stallings has graciously offered a reduced rental fee. Refreshments will be provided.

Funds awarded from The Spark would go toward:

● UrbArts rental fee ($150)

● Refreshments for attendees ($50)

● Printing ($50)

● Honorarium to Shabez Jamal for use of photography for event promotion ($50)

● Transcription: ($200)

Any remaining funds after the inaugural discussion are to be allocated for further engagement activities, including additional community discussions and workshops.