featured gallery for February 2022


Click aquí para leer el texto en español.

After her diagnosis in 1994, the writer and activist Marta Dillon published a weekly feature called Living with the Virus (Vivir con Virus) in the Argentine daily newspaper Página 12 for ten years. Through the everyday life stories she shared in her column, Dillon gave voice to hundreds of anonymous women that wrote to her. In the preface to a collected volume of these pieces, she reflects on the importance of collectivizing experiences:

"It is in the community where I exist, resist, love. Although their constellations mutate and its designs are drawn sometimes over wounds".

Sharing experiences with others is a coping mechanism for singular discomfort and the conditions that medical treatment imposes, however, not all people have the same resources to do so.

Shortly after becoming a psychologist, I started to volunteer with seropositive women that came to test their babies at the Centro Nacional de Referencia para el Sida (AIDS Reference National Center) in Buenos Aires. Together with other specialists, we sustained this precarious space for five years, interviewing more than three hundred women. Most of them came from the city suburbs where they lived in unstable socio-economic conditions and were isolated by fear of stigma. In addition, they were responsible for family caretaking. After their diagnoses,—which often happened traumatically during pregnancy—they went through a process of grieving due to social ideals - corporeality, health, motherhood, romantic relationships, etc. - that could only be lessened through personal and professional support. Most of them adopted defense mechanisms, rejecting the diagnosis and blaming or victimizing themselves. Few of them accepted it in order to take care and move on with their lives.

Since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic, women have had little visibility, and in Latin American countries where the prevailing method of transmission is through sex, they are forced in to opposing and stigmatized positions: cis-heterosexual wife and mother, victim of her partner; or prostitute (cis or trans), guilty for her extreme and promiscuous sexuality. Other femininities - older or lesbian women - remain absolutely invisible. In the health sector, this dichotomy is confirmed by prevention campaigns that seem to only address vertical transmission (from mother to child) and sex workers. It is also reflected in the cultural imaginary, a condition that the Chilean researcher Lina Meruane has called female disappearance syndrome in Latin American AIDS literature.

This lack of female visibility and stereotyped representation increases stigma and prejudice, furthering isolation and emotional distress. This gallery tackles the problem of female invisibility in the AIDS social imaginary, highlighting the relevance of art and activism to confront it. The displayed artworks engage in a dialogue with excerpts from interviews I conducted with women living with HIV, in order to bring the women’s voices out of the confines of the health sector and connect them with others promoting empowerment and collectivity.

Below you can see the Lucía Egaña Rojas' video Female Disappearance Syndrome, produced for the Day With(out) Art 2020, whose script was made from the testimonies of my doctoral research and denounces the low visibility of women living with HIV in debates about the epidemic”.

I thank the Argentinean curator Nicolás Koralsky for his advice and the Peruvian translator Hector Acuña/Frau Diamanda for his/her careful work.