British Columbia

HIV exhibit highlights Vancouver's role in activism and awareness

An art exhibit featuring the works of those living with HIV kicks off Simon Fraser University's spring speaker series on HIV/AIDS.

The exhibit kicks off Simon Fraser University's speaker series on HIV/AIDS

Tiko Kerr's self-portrait, entitled Tough to Kill is made up of some of the pill bottles containing the medications that have treated his HIV. (CBC)

An art exhibit featuring the works of those living with HIV kicks off Simon Fraser University's spring speaker series on HIV/AIDS and highlights the work Vancouver has done to combat the disease.

The exhibit, which features the work of several prominent Vancouver-based artists, coincided with a lecture by Dr. Julio Montaner, one of the doctors whose work helped shape HIV/AIDS treatment.

Dr. Montaner says research in Vancouver played a pivotal role developing antiretroviral therapies. These therapies have helped those living with the disease live a near-normal life with a near-normal longevity. There have been advancements to help those with the disease become non-infectious through treatment. 

"All of that, to a large extent, was developed here in B.C. and we are incredibly proud of it," Montaner said. 

Montaner pointed to the work of the artists as bringing greater awareness to the issue, adding they had worked together from the early days of the epidemic.

Tiko Kerr, an artist living with HIV whose self-portrait is part of the exhibit, says its a way of working through what living with the disease feels like.

"It's a great opportunity for people to show the net result of all the science that's keeping them alive," Kerr said. 

However, he says the exhibit is the first one in 20 years focused on HIV/AIDS and he hopes the exhibit and subsequent speaker series will generate greater awareness. 

"I think the issue has been pushed off to the side," Kerr said. "People are of the mind that it's rather past tense and we've got other things to think about. But if we don't actually keep the pressure on controlling the spread of the virus, we're not going to get ahead of it."

The exhibit took place on Jan. 9  at the Segal Centre in Vancouver. The Simon Fraser University's President's Dream Colloquium on HIV/AIDS continues throughout the spring with various lectures and events.

With files from On The Coast and Mike Kileen

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