A Message from the Heart for HIV Positive Women on Valentine’s Day

Of course, roses are red and violets are blue. But do you know who truly loves you? The recipients of Valentines from the campaign, “LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN,” sure do!  Earlier this month, more than 500 paper pink cut-out heart Valentine cards filled two gallery walls at the art institute; MoMA PS1. Each one crafted with beautiful handmade paper with unique designs and decorated with an array of diverse media – including paint, sparkles, and bright-colored flowers. Some cards were adorned with the faces of gorgeous queens. While neighboring cards showed words of love, support, and encouragement – with common threads binding them all.

After the gallery showing and reception the handmade cards were prepared by Visual AIDS volunteers and mailed out to their intended recipients around the world.

LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN” was the brainchild of artist, activist, and community organizer Jessica Whitbread in 2013 to help the often shunned community of HIV-positive women receive the love and support they deserve. Her movement has become nothing less than monumental.”

It’s an amazing project to be part of along with amazing people,” said Esther McGowan, Executive Director for Visual AIDS. “It’s an absolutely beautiful experience.”

As lead organization, Visual AIDS took the project under their wing in 2015 in collaboration with Dieu Donné, the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW), as well as our own Fire Island Artist Residency (FIAR) based in Cherry Grove.

Being an artist, founding partner of the Artist Residency, and member of the FIAR Board of Directors, Bogia plays an important role in ensuring the success of LPW. He works to make sure to connect his former residents to LPW.

“I think this is a wonderful combination of art and activism that is direct, beautiful, and generates radical love for all participants,” said Chris Bogia of FIAR when interviewed about the project. “LPW is a wonderful way for Fire Island Artist Residency past residents to participate in art-making that goes beyond drawing, pays attention to social change, while actually doing something tangible and real for the folks that LPW serves.”

After becoming a beacon in the lives of so many women who live with HIV, the LPW also started paving the way for other Visual AIDS projects – including a Women’s Empowerment Art Therapy Workshops recently launched by Shirlene Cooper, the first African American woman living with AIDS to sit on the New York City Council’s HIV/AIDS Service Administrations Advisory Board.

The program has mailed over 2,500 uniquely crafted Valentines to date. Challenges for their Valentine’s Day 2022 campaign is the result of another pandemic we have become familiar with, which limited access to crafting supplies – but this an effort driven from the heart, and Bogia invites artists from all levels from hobbyist to professional aboard.

“If you’re wondering if you can create one of these special Valentine cards next year? The answer is yes, you absolutely can! Of course, that’s only if you want to create a card that’s loaded with love!”

LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN is funded in-part by a grant from ViiV Healthcare.