Exhibit tells story of HIV, AIDS struggles

The Florida Department of Health is trying to break down the stigma of living with HIV.

The Faces of HIV exhibit will will be on campus on Friday on the Rock from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. The display shares the stories of Florida residents living with HIV and AIDS and break down the stereotypes associated with the virus.

“We hope to reduce the stigma associated with the disease. It doesn’t matter what race or gender you are, it can affect anyone,” said Kristin Rothbauer, the Faces of HIV Press Contact.

The DOH invited people living with HIV and AIDS to step forward and share their stories by keeping a journal for one month.

These handwritten journals containing the participant’s thoughts, pictures and whatever else they included to express their feelings will be on display.

Next to each journal will be large headshots of the participants, because the hope is for people to look into their eyes and see they have a story to share. Smart phone owners will also be able to scan a QR code and watch that person’s interview.

“This makes it more intimate,” junior Rich Marino said. “If you go read about something on Wikipedia it’s not very intimate, but if you talk to someone, it is. When it’s near it impacts you.”

The event has traveled throughout the state and has stopped at Florida State University, University of Florida and University of Central Florida.

The exhibit will next be in Coconut Grove on Saturday with a mobile testing center.

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Ashley Martinez is a senior majoring in journalism and psychology, which have sharpened her people-watching skills. She has worked as a staff writer, copy editor, assistant editor and is now the Edge arts and entertainment editor at The Miami Hurricane. She serves as the president of UM's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Her work has been featured in The Hurricane, Distraction Magazine, The Communique, Gables Home Page and The Miami Herald. When she's not working on a story, she loves going to the theatre and singing show tunes.