Harness Your Power
Project + Connect launches global journal initiative
Text and Photos by Sean Black

“Writing in a journal is an intimate and reflective experience. We are looking for people to share their stories who might not otherwise have a platform to be heard,” shares Community Programs Director Adam Odsess-Rubin about the recently launched (March 2018) Project + Connect: The Journal Initiative.

Hoping to stir therapeutic experiences, the large-scale initiative seeks to collect and ultimately share the stories of people living with HIV and AIDS, anonymously if the writer so chooses, on the Project + Connect website (see link below) in writing and/or audio recordings.

The Journal Initiative, the largest effort so far to collect the handwritten accounts of people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) from around the world, is spearheaded by the New York-based organization, which reduces stigma through innovative storytelling projects, along with supporting those living with HIV and AIDS by partnering with service organizations and connecting individuals with resources. With permission from the journal writers, Project + Connect shares the stories through multimedia performances and public access to the journal archives to educate the public about living with HIV and AIDS.

Continuing, Odsess-Rubin adds, “Regardless of race, class, gender identity, or sexual orientation we want the public to understand the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS so we can move closer to living in a society free of stigma and prejudice.”

Anyone living with HIV or AIDS is welcome to participate and receive a free thirty-day journal kit in a discreet envelope by mail, which includes a pen, journal, and prepaid return envelope. The content is up to the writer or artist, but DeLoma hopes the experience is therapeutic for those living with HIV and AIDS to know their story will be preserved and appreciated.

Project Director Daniel DeLoma says, “The Journal Initiative is open to anyone and everyone living with HIV or AIDS. There is no need to be a writer or an artist. So far, we’ve received journals that have been used to create daily diaries, collections of poetry, sketchbooks, short novels, graphic novels, pieces of art, and record medical reports.” He added, “The journal doesn’t have to be about HIV or AIDS, it only has to be written by someone living with HIV or AIDS. We have received journals that have only mentioned HIV two or three times and some that have not mentioned HIV or AIDS at all.”

According to the CDC, over a million Americans are living with a HIV diagnosis and nearly 20,000 have been diagnosed with AIDS. In 2016, the last year with such available data, 39,782 individuals received an HIV diagnosis. Project + Connect makes a special effort to partner with the LGBT, newly diagnosed, underrecognized, and homeless communities. The LGBT community is disproportionately affected with sixty-seven percent of new infections coming from male-to-male contact. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, fifty percent of PLWHA are at risk of becoming homeless and a disproportionate percentage of the homeless population are HIV-positive.

If you are interested in participating in the Journal Initiative or want more information about Project + Connect: The Journal Initiative visit https://www.projectandconnect.org/the-journal-initiative or call or text 917-983-6744.

Sean Black is a Senior Editor at A&U.