my freshman year at Hampshire i took a class on HIV for sophomores. i did a poster project on HIV/AIDS in the black church, demonstrating how its possible to create spiritually relevant HIV/AIDS outreach materials. i took those photos out of frustration from only seeing posters where people would “pray for a day without aids”. that’s all well and good, pray for a better tomorrow. but also pray and work for a day when those who live with HIV/AIDS are not demonized by a larger society, let alone spiritual communities which provide the emotional and oftentimes financial support for those struggling with chronic illness. 

i did that photo project from a place of many frustrations. 

i was and still am frustrated with secular prevention theory that seeks to uncritically blame “religion” as the reason for HIV/AIDs pandemics worsening, and not the ways in which power dynamics/supremacies seek to interpret religious doctrine as a means of reinforcing their own notions of “morality”. If you honestly believe Jesus demonized people with HIV and somehow there’s a justification for that behavior in the bible, yet alone any ancient religious text, then you can no longer call yourself an “enlightened” agent of change for whole heartedly accepting what one minority peddles as truth without ever going back to the source yourself. 

i was and still am frustrated with the ways in which intersectional frameworks around spirituality and HIV/AIDS advocacy upholds monogamy as the ultimate solution to prevention (short of abstinence/celibacy), while demonizing those who are polyamorous/practice some form of non-monogamy, people struggling with substance abuses, and the assumed behavior of “homosexuals” i.e cis gay men. i’m frustrated how in an attempt to break down “myths” about those particular groups they are never really included in larger conversations about prevention and models of multi-layered care/support systems. 

i was and still am frustrated with the way those same intersectional frameworks of spirituality and HIV/AIDS never move past this notion that adultery is the anethema to HIV/AIDS advocacy work grounded in a spiritual ethos. forreal tho? adultery is the problem, not the lack of conversations on how to have healthy, open relationships if one desires. not the lack of conversations on the need for disclosure no matter what your relationship label is. not the demonizing of safe sex practices within marriage which essentially reduce marriage to a function of reproduction and not pleasure. 

i look at that photo project from time to time

pull it out of the bottom of my drawer and stare at it

i’m planning on taking a week long class during january term about HIV for educators 

i feel the need to expand the project i did on the black church and take it to the Muslim dimensions of the world during this class. or at least get the ball rolling once this week long workshop is over. 

but i want it to be more than pictorial this time. i love taking photos, but i’m not passionate enough to do it again off the cuff. i have a need to write about this. not from a purely academic place, but as someone who is working towards being an imam, a spiritual+psychological care giver and reproductive health advocate, cause that’s how i envision that position working for me. 

but as of right now, it sounds like i may have to buy myself another notebook