Positive stories

Mareike Guensche

2019 - Ongoing

A collaborative multimedia portrait series explores about 50 personal stories of people living with HIV and presents them through an interactive exhibition in 50 public spaces all over London which will create visibility, fight stigmatisation and result in more people getting tested regularly.

The project consists of a collaborative portrait series of people living with HIV and audio interviews telling their personal stories, their acceptance of diagnosis and subsequence daily routine of living with the virus.

The project will include up to 50 portraits and it shows the positive progress the community living with HIV made towards greater equality through community engagement, legal reform and access to medication.

The series will generate visibility for people with HIV, inform the viewer about the day to day life with HIV and through that honest account create greater awareness and empathy within our society. I used the combination of visual and audible portraiture to great success previously, it created emotional bridges between the audience and the sitter.

This timely, worthy and relevant project of audio-visual images will be presented in public spaces, to place the topic of HIV in the open, in midst of our society. Bus stops and tube stations at busy pedestrian squares will be used to achieve this goal.The audience scan the QR code at the bottom of the images which links to an App from where the corresponding audio interview can be downloaded and listened to. Through the app the viewer will have access to a map of the exhibition, the custom-build website with all stories and images and more related materials.

The overarching aim is to make these stories easily accessible to a wide range of diverse people.


By the end of 2017, 36.9 million people worldwide were living with HIV.

Statistics show that new diagnoses have been declining since their peak in 2005 but coming out as HIV positive is still a massive step. The virus is, different to other diseases, strongly linked to shame and guilt.

The United Kingdom has made remarkable progress in antiretroviral treatment coverage in recent decades: overall 87% of people living with HIV are virally suppressed. However, getting tested is still an obstacle and therefore late diagnosis remains a key challenge: in 2016, 43% of diagnoses happened at a late stage of infection.

Awareness and knowledge around HIV continue to drop in the UK: shockingly only 45% of the population know for example how HIV is transmitted.

Stigmatisation and discrimination related to the virus add unnecessary pain and struggle, as I have witnessed though close friends diagnosed with HIV.

Between 2009 -13 I collaborated with UN Aids to create several campaigns around safe sex and sexual education whilst stationed in Mongolia. Since 2018 I am collaborating with Positively UK on empowering visual campaigns. I am creating and curating exhibitions since over 20 years and worked with a huge variety of funders and organisations. My biggest success so far was to create a collaborative photography exhibition including oral history about domestic violence in Mongolia (2013). This project let to establishing a law to protect survivors of domestic abuse.

I am dreaming of a time when getting tested is as normal as getting a standard vaccination: that would be a meaningful step to eradicate the stigma related to HIV.

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