A Positive Life: Portraits of Women Living with HIV

By Mary Berridge

The Book, Exhibit and Follow-up Video

For four years, HIV-positive poet, River Huston, and photographer Mary Berridge traveled across the United States gathering the stories of women HIV-positive. The book, first published in 1997, sought to address the stereotypes and stigma associated with being HIV positive. Even though women were the fastest-growing segment of the population becoming infected with HIV, their experiences had long been slighted by the media. The original book and exhibit was an attempt to remedy this situation by presenting interviews and beautiful color photographs of 30 women living with HIV. The book allows these women to tell their own stories. All the profiles and photographs are wrenching, for many of the women recount lives of poverty, abuse, and shame. Most are mothers and express fear and sadness at an uncertain future with their families. As the husband of one woman says, “Our forever is not like your forever.” But all the women display strength and dignity in the face of their illness and its impact.

In 2010, River Huston reconnected with the women and families featured in the book, many of whom have died. As a memorial to them, she produced a 20-minute video with photographs from excerpts from the book, updates on many of the women, personal photographs and a memorial poem for the women who had passed. To view this, visit:http://www.riverhuston.com/performances/a-positive-life/

About the writer and photographer

River Huston is an award-winning poet, journalist, public speaker, educator and activist, who was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1991.

Mary Berridge is an award-winning photographer whose work has been published and exhibited throughout the Unites States. In recognition of their work documenting the lives of HIV-positive women, River Huston and Mary Berridge were awarded the 1996 Dorothea Lange-Taylor Prize from Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies.

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