30 November, 2011 13:52

Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation and Brent Stirton made the photoproject "AIDS. Opened faces"

On November 30th 2011 just before World AIDS Day in "Lavra" gallery a photo-exhibition of one of the best photographers of the world largest image-bank Getty Images - Brent Stirton was opened. An exhibition "AIDS. Opened faces" was dedicated to Ukraine and to the people whose life was changed by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation and Brent Stirton made the photoproject "AIDS. Opened faces" / Elena Pinchuk Foundation
Author: Brent Stirton | Getty Images | Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation

Together with Elena Pinchuk, the founder of ANTIAIDS Foundation, those ones who became heroes of the exhibition took part in the opening. The photo project was shot in two phases - in years 2005 and 2011.

The exhibition was active from November 30th to December 17th 2011. The project was presented online on the hiv.kiev.ua web page. On the same page one could also watch video-message from Brent Stirton addressed to the visitors of the exhibition.

During the exhibition everyone was able to pass a free and anonymous HIV-test and find out the results within 10-15 minutes. Volunteer-students, who have received grant from Elena Pinchuk ANITAIDS Foundation for conducting information campaign in Kiev universities, have been informing exhibition visitors about HIV/AIDS.

By opening the exhibition initiators of the project sought to reflect the origins of HIV/AIDS epidemic in Ukraine, the consequences of catastrophic growth of number of new HIV/AIDS cases, the influence of the parallel epidemics - tuberculosis and hepatitis and the spread of drug addiction and sexually transmitted diseases. Not all stories collected in this project are the stories of HIV-positive patients, but these are the fates of specific people, families and communities, whose lives were changed forever by HIV/AIDS diagnosis.

"We have no right to lay back even for a second. AIDS as any other incurable disease does not go away forever. At best it may only go in retreat. How far it goes and how long it will stay away depends on our determination to fight and attack. The death of one person is a tragedy. The death of millions is statistics. Our exhibition is not about statistics but about tragedy. Looking at those faces each of us should feel that it is not statistics but human eyes that tell the true history of AIDS. I would like to say thank you to those people who have opened up their faces for this photo project; and to the social workers who have devoted their lives to helping those, who have faced the HIV problem" - Elena Pinchuk, the founder of ANITAIDS Foundation said at the opening of the exhibition.

Brent Stirton photographs war for nine months in a year.  His works are printed in the world largest publications - National Geographic Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, The London Sunday Times Magazine, Newsweek, Le Monde, Figaro, Paris Match, GQ, Geo, Stern and many other. But his trip to our country in 2005 when he was shooting for "The Picture of HIV/AIDS in Ukraine" project for the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS impressed him so strongly and deeply, that six years later at his own initiative he came back to Ukrainian battlefield to fight against AIDS. Meetings of Brent with the heroes of his photographs were very emotional. There is a life-story behind each photo sometimes it is someone's drama, and sometimes - someone's love story. 

It is not easy to impress Brent Stirton with problems of HIV-positive people. He lives in New York but his home country is South Africa, one of the most affected by HIV/AIDS countries in the world. But even when compared to South Africa or China where he have shot similar photo projects, Ukraine has impressed him... This happened primarily because of the fact that most of the people he met in 2005 were the people who couldn't move around without assistance and needed constant care. In 2011 the situation in the country had changed - the access to HIV-testing have evidently improved, the number of people who receive antiretroviral therapy in the country went up by eight times and drug-dependent patients have got access to substitution therapy. But the situation still remains severe.

"Working on photo projects devoted to HIV theme all over the world I spend some part of the year with the heroes of my photographs. When I am next to them even for a short while, I always get amazed and deeply touched by these people - the people who have suffered from this disease and their fates".

"It seems to me, that today's situation in Ukraine is the reason why many people who have faced HIV-problem have become despaired. That is why in my work I used to always get inspired by social workers that I met throughout the project. I was also astonished that people who do not have anything were ready to give away everything. I have met such people while working on this project" - Brent Stirton said in his video message dedicated to the opening of the exhibition.

Together with Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation employees and other partner organizations Brent Stirton have travelled all over Ukraine photographing street children in Odessa, Gypsy settlements and the family with 43 HIV-positive children in Western Carpathian region; injection-drug users in Kiev and Donetsk, young women from Poltava who have spent half of their lives standing by the roadside, prisoners in Kherson, orphans in Makeevka, Kharkiv and Kiev. Those unique shots portraying the life of people affected by the epidemic were shown for the first time at the exhibition in "Lavra" gallery that ran from 1st to 17th of December 2011.

Thanks to employees of the related projects and partners of the Foundation all over the country Brent Stirton have met people, who use drugs and are forced to start each day with the search of funds for the next dose. Many heroes of the project are young women who have kids. Many of those women are still being taken care of by their parents who still cherish hope that someday their lives will change for better.

Brent Stirton got a chance to visit Darievska Colony of Strict Regime in Kherson, where colony inmates diagnosed with HIV/AIDS serve their sentences; he also got to spend the day with social workers from Odessa Foundation "The Way Home", and to take part in working with the women from sex industry along with volunteers of the public organization "Faith. Hope. Love". Thanks to the staff of All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV the project obtained stories of HIV-positive people from Khrakiv, Poltava and Kiev.

The project also includes happy stories. These are stories of people whose lives have been saved by antiretroviral therapy, which became widely available due to the grant from the Global Fund. These are also stories of young couples that managed to get rid of drug addiction. These are stories of people, who were united by HIV diagnosis, who have found the strength not only to start a new life but to also lead others. Volodia, one of the heroes of the project, is not using drugs for 20 years already. He has a simple answer to the question why he got engaged into working with drug users, and this answer is: "My daughter is 18 years old. I have recently found out that she is using drugs".

One of the main themes of the project is the theme of children. 7 year-old Nadya that was living amongst three-year old kids in the orphanage have found her family after 6 years of waiting. In 2005 not many would believed that Nadya was going to find parents - Ukrainians wouldn't be the first ones to accept HIV-positive children in their families. Nowadays, thanks to mutual project with Elton John AIDS-Foundation adoption of HIV-positive children has become an ordinary occasion. In 2005 Brent was photographing children that grew up in the specialized orphanage in Makeevka. In 2011 he was able to take pictures of these same kids in their own rooms next to their new families. Two host families have adopted eight HIV-positive children in Makeevka, and the Foundation has bought a house and an apartment for them using the funds raised at the charity auction.

Each visitor of the exhibition received a package of Dolphi condoms with the HIV/AIDS hotline telephone number on it as reminder about the necessity to protect oneself from HIV/AIDS.

Brent Stirton Biography (www.brentstirton.com)

Brent Stirton, 42, is the chief staff photographer of Getty Images (New York), the world's largest photo agency. He specializes in documentaries and is known for his recognizable style of work. On average, nine months a year he spends in the mission, shooting military action in different parts of the world.

Brent's works were published in National Geographic Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, The New York Times Magazine, The London Sunday Times Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, The Discovery Channel, Newsweek, Le Express, Le Monde, Le Figaro, Paris Match, GQ, Geo, Stern, CNN and many other respected international publications and information services.

Brent is the official photographer for the Global Business Coalition against Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. For a long time he has been a photographer for WWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature, shooting campaigns on sustainability and the environment. He works for the Ford and Clinton Foundations, the Nike foundation and the World Economic Forum.

Brent had received such awards as Overseas Press Club, Frontline Club, Deadline Club and Days Japan. A few times he was announced a photographer of the year in the USA. Three times he had won China International Photo Award, as well as Lead Awards Germany, Graphics USA, American Photography, American Photo, American Society of Publication Designers and London Association of Photographers Award. Brent had received five Lucie Foundation awards and five World Press Photo Foundation awards. Also, he was acknowledged by UN Organization Awards for the work in the sphere of environment protection and fighting against HIV/AIDS. Recently Brent has received a 2008 Visa D'or award in the nomination of reportage/journalistic photography at the Visa Pour L'image Festival in France. Brent has also been rewarded Lucy Award in the International Photographer of the Year nomination in 2008.

In 2009 he had received gold in China International Photographic Awards, as well as awards from National Press Photographers Association and Graphis and American Photography. He was also recognized by 2009 ASME Magazine Publishers Award for the photojournalism and works created in Congo Democratic Republic and published in the National Geographic magazine.

HIV/AIDS in Ukraine - years 2005 and 2011

Ukraine remains a leader in Europe in terms of pace of spreading of HIV infection. According to UNAIDS experts, more than 1 per cent of population is HIV infected in Ukraine, and only every other is aware of their diagnosis.

In 2005 there were 13 770 new HIV-infection cases registered in Ukraine. While for the 10 months of 2011 - 17 021 cases were registered. 

37 Ukrainians a day were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 2005. In 2011 this diagnose was heard daily by 56 people. 

Nowadays Ukrainians more often become infected through unprotected sex. In 2005 33% of people who had HIV infection were infected through sexual contact, while in 2010-2011 this percentage rose to 45%.

In 2005 2185 Ukrainians died from AIDS, 36 of them were children. For the 10 months of 2011 there were 2 828 people who died and 21 of them were children.

In 2005 HIV-positive mothers in Ukraine gave birth to 2 498 children.  In 2010 it was 4049 children.

As of July 1, 2011 the record showed 9 072 children born to HIV-positive mothers, 2 669 of which got the diagnosis confirmed.

According to the forecasts of international experts by 2014 the number of children who have lost both parents due to HIV/AIDS epidemic could reach 42 000.

In 2005 about 3 000 patients received antiretroviral treatment in Ukraine. In 2011, there were more than 26 000 of them.

In 2005 the program of substitution therapy for drug-dependent patients started in Ukraine and was attended by 160 people. In 2011 there were already more than 6 000 people taking part in this program.

For detailed information, please, contact Pavel Piminov, Communications Director, Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation on e-mail: P.Piminov@antiaids.orgContact phone number: +38 (044) 490 4805.

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