The story of women and HIV is finally being told, and here’s how you can help.
Queer erasure in history is nothing new, nor is the particular invisibility bestowed upon queer women. The HIV epidemic was understandably linked primarily to male distribution and suffering. HIV, however, impacted the female community, too. First, women can contract and have contracted the disease. Second, the AIDS epidemic in the 1908s was a crisis that mostly affected gay people – and lesbian women were instrumental in providing care, support, and activism, for their gay male counterparts.
Gavin Roach and Dirk Hoult, active authorities in the Australian theatre scene, are heading an unparalleled project to celebrate and honour the Australian women who lived through this time. “[The project is] unique because, in contrast to our existing canon of AIDS plays, no such work exists that specifically explores the lives and experiences of Australian women…who were involved with and/or cared for those living with HIV/AIDS. ” says creator Gavin Roach.
The project, titled ‘We Were There,’ is being developed as a verbatim performance text, meaning the words and images that appear on stage will be sourced directly from content shared by interviewees. It is set to premiere as part of the Midsumma Queer Festival in 2018.
HIV representation in the media and arts is largely unaccounted for. For statistical purposes, HIV falls under the Disabilities umbrella. The GLAAD Broadcast Findings from June 2015-May 2016 found that 0.9% of television characters were disabled, with Oliver from How to Get Away with Murder the lone flag bearer for HIV positive characters.
Similarly, female centric stats on HIV itself are lacking. The Australian Federation of Aids Organisation fails to even mention gender trends amongst its statistics, despite women making up 4.5% of HIV sufferers.
The Kirby Institute, home to a leading HIV research team and the source of the above statistic, is not only headed by a woman (Associate Professor, Rebecca Guy), but the female team members outnumber men 2:1. So it’s clear to see that women are highly involved in HIV, as sufferers, carers, and researchers, yet they are not getting much recognition for their contribution.
The We Were There project will be another step in the direction of visibility, and will be entirely authentic and non fictional. So to do that, Gavin and Dirk need your help. If you, or somebody you know has experienced HIV, get in contact by emailing:
If you haven’t had experience with HIV, but would still like to support the project, head to: