Project Open Hand celebrates longtime HIV survivors

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Wednesday May 11, 2016
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Artist Patrick Brandt will feature some of his paintings<br>at a Project Open Hand dinner for long-term HIV/AIDS survivors.
Artist Patrick Brandt will feature some of his paintings
at a Project Open Hand dinner for long-term HIV/AIDS survivors.

No longer the automatic death sentence it once was, HIV/AIDS has become a manageable condition that most are able to live with in relative good health for many years. With more and more HIV-positive people living 20-30 years beyond their initial diagnosis, Project Open Hand is co-hosting a dinner and art auction as a celebration of survivors' lives.

The event takes place Saturday May 14, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at Project Open Hand's second floor grocery center, 730 Polk Street in San Francisco.

"The long-term survivor's community has not had a voice for so long," Ryan Barrett, manager of wellness programs for Project Open Hand, told the Bay Area Reporter. "It's a community finally starting to get the recognition it deserves."

Project Open Hand was founded in 1985 to deliver nutritious meals to people living with AIDS. The organization has since expanded its services to include those with critical illnesses, such as breast cancer. It also operates a senior lunch program.

The May 14 celebration is a collaboration between Project Open Hand and Jesus Herberto Guillen Solis, who moderates HIV Long Term Survivors, a closed Facebook group. 

The event will include spoken word and musical performances, and three artists will be displaying their works. One piece can be purchased via silent auction at the event's Facebook page, proceeds to benefit Project Open Hand. Other pieces can be purchased directly from the artists on Saturday. 

Performers include Solis, Hank Trout, Nelson D'Alerta, and Joseph Leonardi.

Barrett said that he was pleased to be putting together an event that would recognize the lives of long-term survivors.

"No other community has lost so many people at such a high rate and at such young ages," Barrett said. "Yet they've been ignored."

Patrick Brandt, a gay man, is one of the artists whose work will be seen at the dinner. Brandt has been HIV-positive since 1992 " he began painting in 2000.

"I'm concerned about the way that HIV/AIDS is being portrayed by the media, in education, and in medical offices," Brandt told the B.A.R. "The magazines have hunky and beautiful models smiling, like as if to say 'It's fun to have HIV. Everyone should have it.' So, of course, rather than pushing condoms, which guard against a magma of sexually transmitted diseases, pills are pushed. Drug companies love that."

Brandt found a lot of support at the HIV Long Term Survivors forum.

"It has been a wonderful gift in increasing my social activity," he said. "I was able to go to the movie Last Men Standing, a documentary about long-term survivors, and meet the cast of the movie. I made a writing friend " we meet to help each other in writing. I've met other artists, gardeners, activists, and photographers who inspire me. It's great to share stories, thoughts, and events with others from around the world."

Brandt added that he's delighted to be offering his paintings at the auction.

"I'm grateful to be able to have the opportunity to give back to what I've benefited from," he said. "There are so many of us who have been positive for 20 to 30 or more years. It is so nice to feel that there is a group that I feel I belong to."

Barrett said that online sign-ups have concluded for the dinner, but that people who want to attend can just show up, although a meal can't be guaranteed. There is no cost to attend.

 

The HIV Long Term Survivors Facebook group is at https://www.facebook.com/groups/466278376873515/ - _=_