Last Wednesday, Positive Living North hosted an encore presentation of HIV unMasked, a play by Valerie Laub to mark World Aids Day, Dec. 1 and Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week.
The play, anchored around the human immunodeficiency virus as the main character, relates some of the personal experiences of four residents of northern B.C. living with HIV, as well as providing accurate information about the virus itself.
Although HIV became a household word in the early 1980s, the stigma attached to persons with HIV/AIDS still lingers, all too often leaving carriers of the virus living as outcasts.
“There are times when I shake my head and wonder if we are still in 1985,” Melanie Monds, on-site manager with Positive Living North in Smithers, said of the attitudes towards HIV she continues to witness.
It is exactly these circumstances that compelled Laub to write her one-woman play.
“I’ve always stood up for the marginalized, the disenfranchised,” Laub said.
Monds said the play was created specifically for the general public, to provide them with an opportunity to receive the correct information regarding HIV.
“I hope that someone walking away from this play realizes that first, someone living with HIV is a person, and second, they walk away with a little bit of education,” Monds, who has been working with HIV patients for eight years.
Laub, makes efficient use of masks to slip in and out of characters, to help the audience keep track of the characters and focus on the characters rather than her, as well as to serve as a metaphor for the experience of persons living with HIV.
“That play is absolutely brilliant,” Monds said.
“I hope this play can do some stigma-busting.”
One of the characters in the play is Tammy Leiterman, a resident of Smithers who’s lived with HIV for about five years and remembers the moment she heard the news she was HIV positive.
“I thought I was going to die,” Leiterman said.
Leiterman was in attendance at HIV unMasked last week and said she is pleased with how she and the other characters in the play are portrayed.
“It’s neat seeing somebody else do it,” Leiterman said.
“It’s really moving, it’s awesome.”
For information visit www.hiv101.ca