I am a PLHIV. I am also an artist.
When the COVID-19 outbreak began, it is unavoidable that people get scared. I was one of those people who got really concerned that I may get the virus because of my HIV status. There was not enough information whether people living with HIV have higher risk of getting infected of COVID-19. The research is very limited. On top of that, there are news from around the globe that HIV medicine or the Anti-Retroviral Therapy is being used to treat patients with COVID-19. This had triggered my worry about the sufficiency of HIV medicine that is currently available.
The COVID-19 outbreak and the corresponding government lockdowns have caused mental anguish and several sleepless nights most especially to the people living with HIV. The fear of getting sick because our immune system is weak keep us awake at night, and the memories of discrimination coming back haunting us distracts our attention and focus.
At times like these, I need a creative distraction.
Charcoal drawing has helped me cleanse my mind with negative thoughts. The act of drawing (not only with charcoal) brings us, the artists, to a different dimension where our rules govern. The act of drawing, shaping and manifesting the image from our mind give us control which the COVID-19 outbreak has taken from most of us. Drawing is also a conversation that happens mostly between myself and I.
The past few weeks, I started drawing but without any thought of what I should draw. In the end, I am mostly drawing detailed hands in different sizes and gestures. One of my friends commented I am producing hand drawings because “I need help”, and other commented that “I am doing too much”. I guess both are true – I may be doing too much, hence, I need help.
Regardless, the hands I draw are having gestures which I think are meaningful during these times of the COVID-19 outbreak. Among any other parts of our body, the hands allow us physical control to give, to take back, to push, to pull. It is our hands which fills our cups.
As a PLHIV, art through drawing has its language, which is not uttered in words but is made understood by experience, perspectives and most of the times feelings. Art has helped me function and keep my sanity. For us PLHIV, it is unavoidable that we get scared during these times. But adherence to ART is important to suppress HIV in the body. With undetectable viral load and healthy lifestyle, we can avoid getting infected with COVID-19.