Video quilt stitches together stories of HIV/AIDS battle


The HIV Story Project's video booth opened its doors to the public last week. People can record their stories at Under on Roof in the Castro through to June 30. Photo courtesy of Tim Kulikowski.

In the store it doesn’t look like much – a simple blue box made out of wood dominating the display window of Under One Roof on Castro Street.

The box is decorated with promotional cards and has a single door at its middle. Mounted on one side is a plasma TV, facing the street, advertising the HIV Story Project.

But inside the box, something bigger is happening. People are getting the chance to explore how, over the past three decades, HIV/AIDS has changed the way people view intimacy.

It’s called Generations HIV – an interactive video booth, which gives visitors a chance to record a question or share a story about how HIV/AIDS has affected their lives.

“We wanted to create a platform where no matter when you came of age in the evolution of HIV, you could tell your story,” said Marc Smolowitz, executive producer of the HIV Story Project, at Wednesday’s opening night of Generations HIV.

The booth is part of the HIV Story Project – a nonprofit group that tells the stories of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS through video. The booth is an attempt to collect more stories of those affected while shedding light on the generation gap’s effect on how the virus and disease are viewed.

“You have people who were affected in the ‘80s and their perspectives are so different then people who were affected in the ‘90s or the 2000s,” said Dan Jolly, communications manager for the HIV Story Project. “We wanted to capture that.”

The goal is to create a video collection comparable to the AIDS Memorial Quilt of the 1980s, using media to modernize the traditional panels into videos.

“Whereas in the ‘80s and ‘90s, people were making quilts to honor those who died, this is in honor of people who live and survive,” Smolowitz said.

Vince Gamboa, vice president of human resources for, a sponsor of the event, said he believes the new take on the quilt is a good strategy to keep HIV/AIDS relevant.

“Given where we are and how people receive information, its important to engage people,” Gamboa said. “This is a unique way to approach people in a different way.”

The booth will be at Under One Roof until June 30 and is open to visitors six hours a day. It’s also open for organizations to use privately.

Ted Garey, an attorney at the AIDS Legal Referral Panel, heard about the event through his work, which will be taking advantage of the private time available. He said he’s most interested in learning from older generations now living with HIV/AIDS.

“People didn’t think people would get into their 50s before, so they’re kind of a new community,” Garey said.

Under One Roof is the first stop for the booth, which will be traveling to a few other locations in San Francisco before embarking on a national tour. Organizers plan to have the booth in Washington, D.C., for the 19th International AIDS Conference in 2012 – the first held in the United States since it was held in San Francisco in 1990.

Eventually, organizers of Generations HIV – which is an official 2010 SF PRIDE event – plan to have all the videos from the booth gathered and put online for people around the world to view.

“We still haven’t fully decided how to publish everything, but the idea is that the booth ends up on your laptop,” Jolly said.

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