ATLAS2018 Maps the Reach of AIDS Worldwide

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Four-Year-Long Project Debuts at IAS2018, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
by Hank Trout

At the International AIDS Society 2018 conference in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, later this month, Erwin Kokkelkoren, Artistic Director and Writer, Bert Oele, Producer, and the other creative folks at Les Enfants Terribles will premiere ATLAS2018, a vast multimedia project giving a face and voice to people living with HIV/AIDS in fourteen countries on six continents.

In the historic center of Amsterdam, Beurs van Berlage, ATLAS2018 comprises a unique exhibition with hundreds of films, photos and written stories of men and women who are living with HIV or AIDS. The filmmakers visited all six continents to interview a wide variety of men and women living with HIV/AIDS—as their website says, “teenagers, truck drivers, sex workers, gay men, the transgendered, drug users, children, long-term survivors and others”—to create a worldwide portrait of HIV/AIDS in 2018.

For two weeks—July 22 through August 2, 2018—ATLAS2018 will present speakers, talk shows, discussions, live recordings, and parties, in addition to daily screenings of the new documentary I will speak, I will speak! The centerpiece of ATLAS2018, this documentary features women and men living with HIV in Zambia, Cambodia, South Africa, Russia, Germany, and the United States (George Kelly, of San Francisco) telling their very personal stories of living with the virus. There will also be showings of The Time There-After, a 2013 documentary produced by Willem Aerts and Erwin Kokkelkoren about thirty years of HIV/AIDS in The Netherlands, and Last Men Standing [A&U, May 2016], a film by the San Francisco Chronicle detailing the lives of eight long-term HIV survivors in San Francisco.

Zambia crew at work. Photo by Marjolein Annegarn

Erwin Kokkelkoren, one of the founders of the production company Les Enfants Terribles, is an actor and writer who has worked extensively throughout Europe and in New York. His partner Bert Oele is a director and producer, who previously had a long career in psychiatric health care. The last ten years he has produced several major projects for Les Enfants Terribles. Both are long-time HIV survivors. They are understandably proud of the documentary, I will speak, I will speak!

“[The documentary] is very much a community project,” Mr. Kokkelkoren told A&U. “It’s a miracle, the result of a lot of hard work with the best team ever we worked with,… [We made] ten visits to all the corners off the world, visiting the HIV community in their own houses, city… [held] discussions at the kitchen table… Getting close to get a personal, but at the same time broad perspective….I find that crucial, we are all so much more than just a virus.”

When asked what he hopes the ATLAS2018 exhibit will accomplish, Erwin said, “I hope our work will spread respect. HIV is a virus, there’s no reason to hate us or discriminate against us, as we’ve seen too many times in Africa and other places.

Crew at work in San Francisco. Photo by Erik Smits

“A cure is for doctors and scientists, but it would be nice if we can add information, and hopefully, add a little bit to the humanization of our community, especially where it’s most needed, Africa Russia and other places.”

To kick off the project, the sponsors invite all PLHIV attending IAS2018 to join them at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 22, at Dam Square for a photo—“The most positive picture of the year,” according to organizers. From there, the group will proceed, led by bagpiper Eric Windhorst, to the Beurs van Berlage for the official opening of the exhibit.

A full day-by-day schedule of events planned by ATLAS2018 is available on their website.

If you are attending IAS2018, be sure to catch as much of the ATLAS2018 exhibit and activities as you can fit into your schedule. It promises to be a unique, informative, emotionally satisfying event.


For more information about ATLAS2018, including a full schedule of events, please visit their website www.atlas2018.org. For an example of the kinds of films to be featured at ATLAS2018, check out “A Lunch to Remember,” filmed in February of this year in San Francisco, at http://atlas2018.org/america-2-2-5/.


Hank Trout, Editor at Large, edited Drummer, Malebox, and Folsom magazines in the early 1980s. A long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS (diagnosed in 1989), he is a thirty-eight-year resident of San Francisco, where he lives with his fiancé Rick. Follow him on Twitter @HankTroutWriter.