Art by Farah Jeune for ViiV Healthcare

honoring the poet, advocate, author, singer and young person living with AIDS Mary Bowman, the National AIDS Memorial and ViiV Healthcare have created the Mary Bowman Arts in Activism Award.

Through her poetry and other work, Ms. Bowman [A&U, August 2016; March 2018] advocated for the HIV community, particularly for women and African-Americans living with HIV. Among her many efforts, she was an ambassador for the U.S. Department of Health’s Office of Women’s Health for its Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day; participated in National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day PSAs; worked at an HIV/AIDS organization focused on women; performed at the XIX International AIDS Conference, AIDSWatch 2015, and DIVAS Simply Singing!, among other events and conferences; facilitated support groups for other young people living with HIV; and spoke on numerous panels. She also performed at the 2018 ViiV Healthcare Youth and Community Summit.

Bowman was thirty years old when she died on May 16, 2019. Born with HIV in 1988, she explored through her art her experiences of growing up living with HIV from birth and losing her mother to AIDS. A young, out woman of color, she gave voice to the next generation of PLHIV. Willing to write and speak of her own physical and mental health challenges, she was a fierce advocate for young people living with HIV, determined to fight the stigma that attaches to HIV and to inspire other young positives.Bowman used the arts to speak her truth of living with HIV. Many of her spoken-word performances can be viewed on YouTube.

In an interview conducted by A&U Managing Editor Chael Needle, Bowman said, “As a young person myself growing up living with HIV, I didn’t have anybody to go to for inspiration. We had support groups at Children’s Hospital and things like that, but it still wasn’t enough. For instance, I didn’t know what to do in social spaces. I didn’t know what to do when sex conversations came up. I didn’t know how to be a young person living with HIV. And, so, what I wanted to do was teach, or inspire, young people to know that you can be young with HIV and still live a normal, healthy, amazing life. That you don’t have to be ashamed of what you have because it’s not your fault. And I wanted to be a living example.”

The Mary Bowman Arts in Activism Award is meant to honor Bowman’s legacy as well as to support other young accomplished activists (under the age of 27) who exemplify Bowman’s passion for the arts as HIV/AIDS activism. It is hoped that the $5,000 award will provide academic financial support or cover other costs of the creation of the recipient’s art. Application forms, with required attachments, must be submitted no later than Monday, June 29, 2020, at 5:00 p.m., PST.

For details on the Award and how to apply, please log on to the National AIDS Memorial’s site at http://bit.ly/2TYZELX.


— Reporting by Hank Trout


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