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Living Positive

“Living Positive”
by Tara Stuart

A collaboration with Live Forward (formerly AIDS Athens), the Rabbit Box: Living Positive show drew a crowd of 200 to the Foundry on September 12th. The evening’s storytellers captivated the audience with their marvelous stage presence, spunk, and joie de vivre. Our emcee Riley Kirkpatrick provided heartfelt, thoughtful commentary for this remarkable night of storytelling that illuminated not only the stigma attached to the diagnosis but also its transformative nature.

Rick Schott had been close to someone who died within six weeks of learning he had HIV. Rick got tested often — usually a quick process, and he was on his way with a paper that verified he was free and clear of the virus.

Known as “Sister Paula” or “Grandma” by everyone in her community, Paula Venable gives hope and advice to those newly diagnosed.

Upon receiving her diagnosis in 2003, Phyllis Beard’s immediate response was “I’m gonna get busy living,” after which she fulfilled her lifelong dream.

Asynaka Willis lives his life with no shame and no stigma. He believes his diagnosis has made him a better person, except when it comes to dealing with 9th graders.

In a story that spans decades, Rob Hagwood shares his encounters with HIV: from witnessing the social and physical pain of his friends’ suffering to receiving his own diagnosis and thriving.

A recovering addict who was first diagnosed with HIV 32 years ago, Tammy Kinney knows what stigma looks like and encourages others to embrace their status and ask for help.

Olive Aneno grew up in war-torn Uganda. She details the pain and confusion of witnessing in glimpses her mother’s illness as she lay confined to a single room, with every precaution taken not to spread what seemed to be a highly contagious virus.

Our Cracker Jack Surprise storyteller, a Marine combat veteran, told of a Marine he knows with HIV and his sense that the two descriptors could not go together.