After three participatory installations at AIDS2012 in Washington, DC, USA, AIDS2014 in Melbourne, Australia, and AIDS2016 in Durban, South Africa, you can still visit our On-line Exhibition


What does aging with HIV look like? Increased access to antiretroviral therapy is enabling people around the world to live with HIV into their 50s, 60s, and beyond, but we rarely see their faces or hear their stories in the media or popular culture.

The Graying of AIDS: Stories from an Aging Pandemic is the first-ever documentary project on HIV and aging around the globe. Participatory exhibitions and an online archive feature a growing collection of portraits and interviews that challenge stereotypes about both HIV/AIDS and aging, proving that in increasingly diverse communities and environments, an HIV/AIDS diagnosis need no longer be the “death sentence” it once was.

Stories from an Aging Pandemic began at AIDS2012 in Washington, DC, and traveled to AIDS2014 in Melbourne, Australia and AIDS2016 in Durban, South Africa. Participatory documentary installations include a pop-up portrait studio, an interview station, and an evolving gallery of images and quotes. Adults aged 50 and older who self-identify as aging with HIV or AIDS are invited to pose for a formal portrait, while targeted oral history interviews explore similarities and differences in participants’ personal experiences living and aging with the virus around the world. To date, the project has worked with over 100 people from over 17 countries and 4 indigenous nations.


BEGINNINGS: AIDS2012 in Washington, DC

Over the roughly five days that the Global Village at the XIX International AIDS Conference was open, The Graying of AIDS team (Katja Heinemann, Naomi Schegloff, and Viviana Peretti) worked with adults age 50+ from around the world who openly self-identify as living with HIV or AIDS to create photographic portraits and explore what it means to be aging with the virus around the globe. In all, we photographed and interviewed older adults from 12 countries, 13 American states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, posting new images and interview excerpts in our on-site and on-line galleries whenever things quieted down for a moment.

But things rarely stayed quiet for long: in addition to the many amazing older adults we worked with in our highly visible exhibit space on the edge of the Global Village Café, we spoke with activists, researchers, care providers, and curious on-lookers from around the globe who brought their own questions, stories, and perspectives on the pandemic to our booth. The Global Village was the only part of AIDS2012 that was free and open to the public, enabling anyone who happened to be in Washington DC from July 22 – 27 to visit and learn from people from around the world who are living with and fighting HIV/AIDS with creativity, resilience, power, and compassion. The breadth and depth of knowledge, experience, and creativity was truly something to behold; our only regret about our time in the Global Village is that we were so busy talking with and photographing this extraordinary group of older adults living with HIV that we had little opportunity to truly explore the other booths and activities taking place throughout the conference.

We are grateful for the abundance of material – both portraits and interviews – we were able to gather while working non-stop in our Global Village installation; much of what we collected is already up on our tumblr, but there is still much to share. Although we are no longer creating new materials, we will continue to add interview quotes and images in the coming weeks as we get caught up with transcribing, editing, and handling other aspects of post-production, and encourage you to check back often. Eventually each photograph will be paired with interview excerpts, and additional quotes, questions, and feedback will be posted on the “main wall.”

For now, we want to send a big THANK YOU out to all who participated: for your time and patience while we were swamped, for your humor and good spirits, and for your generosity while sharing your experiences, insights, and questions about aging with the virus during the interviews. We are grateful for the trust you placed in us and for your support of this project. We also want to thank the many of you who shared your questions and feedback on-line and on our on-site question/feedback boards; your questions had a major influence on the course of our conversations with project participants, and their answers will be included in the quotes and interview excerpts populating our on-line exhibition. It has been an amazing week for us, and we hope all who participated – both project participants and exhibit visitors – enjoyed their time at AIDS2012 as much as we did. Finally, as the face of the pandemic keeps changing, we hope that this on-line exhibition will provide a useful resource for all those interested in the intersection of aging and HIV.

This exhibition is presented in collaboration with AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA). With special thanks to the women and staff of Iris House and the staff and clients of ACRIA who worked with us before we headed to DC to test possible approaches to portraiture and interviewing, and shared their own experiences of aging with the virus.