Ffiteen new audio books have been added to the shelves at the Jubilee Library in Brighton and behind each of them is a one-on-one interview or first person account of someone living with HIV.
Each recording tells a unique account from someone in Sussex about how they deal with the virus, with some saying how they now have to “pursue their dreams” every day and some feel as if they are “living on borrowed time”.
The Speaking Volumes project offers a voice to these people and puts their stories on show for all to listen to – in the hope it will offer some understanding for what they believe is a “misunderstood” condi tion.
HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, is a condition that is passed on by bodily fluids and is the progressive failure of the immune system that allows other infections and cancers to thrive.
According to the Terrence Higgins Trust there are 6,587 people living with HIV in the South East.
Alice Booth, from Brighton, is the Speaking Volumes project’s director and manager.
After visiting Africa at the age of 18 she became encouraged to use performance art to spread awareness of HIV.
She said the Speaking Volumes project was inspired by the ‘living libraries’ projects she encountered in Uganda in which people come together to share their experiences of living with the virus.
Ms Booth said: “There are lots of positive quotes and things that people can pull out of their stories.
"We are creating a work of art to give a voice to people who are voiceless. “It is definitely more about exploring HIV through art rather than a work of art that happens to have HIV in it.
“There is a stigma around HIV and it is a very social condition.
“In our project some people were sharing and critically thinking about their condition for the first time.”
The event was launched on Monday with a gospel choir and appearances from Brighton and Hove’s mayor Denise Cobb and Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas.
Dr Lucas said: “I am very proud to be associated with a project about allowing the voices of hidden, stigmatised and marginalised people to be heard in order to help challenge widespread misconceptions about people with HIV.
“Speaking Volumes is about increasing understanding that, with the right support, those living with HIV can overcome a lot of the difficulties, be true to their own aspirations, live fulfilling and successful lives and inspire others to do the same – something I’ve seen put into practice to great effect here in Brighton and Hove.”
The project is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and will be available to view at the Jubilee Library until June 8 – you can also view the proj- ect online at http://www.speak- ingvolumesproject.org.
Dharmendra Kanani, England director of the Big Lottery Fund, said: “The Speaking Volumes project is doing vital work towards breaking down stigma, challenging ignorance and developing an understanding of issues affecting people by giving them a voice in the community, quite literally.
“It is inspiring that our Awards for All funding could help turn such a worthy project into a reality.”
Rachel Whitbread, community engagement manager of Jubilee Library, said: “We thought it was a really interesting project and would be of interest to our customers.”
She also said the project was part of a wider initiative trying to do more about health initiatives in libraries.