The show began with a mission statement.

“It is the hope of all of us that these stories will help others to see the person behind the disease and move past the worn out, inaccurate stereotypes that block the way of true compassion and understanding.”

Spectrum, Miami’s LGBTQ+ student organization, hosted the HIVoices theatre performance last Thursday as part of its Awareness Week. HIVoices presented the stories of six courageous individuals living with HIV. Each story was performed by actors from the Falcon Theatre in Newport, KY, throughout the emotionally captivating show.

Event coordinator and Ph.D student Joshua Jones first saw a preview of HIVoices last summer in Cincinnati and immediately found it compelling.

“In a lot of HIV/AIDS discourse and conversations — at the political level, at the social level, cultural level — people living with HIV or people living with AIDS very often don’t have a seat at their own table,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of conversation that happens about this community without people from the community kind of contributing to that conversation.”

While the performances were dramatized, the stories were real. The monologues were based on hours of transcribed interviews with six individuals from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area who are HIV-positive. The primary purpose of the performance was to raise awareness of the fact that those who are HIV-positive are more than their condition — they are people.

The monologues illuminated the lives of these individuals. Every story was unique and full of ups and downs.

No diagnosis is the same. No life is the same.

“Very often in our cultural imagination, HIV is death, AIDS is death. And these monologues tell a little bit of a different story,” Jones said. “They capture happiness and sadness and humor. They capture a diverse emotional attitude towards living with the virus.”

One message rang clear throughout the performance: HIV does not discriminate. It affects people regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity. HIV can also be contracted through more than just sex.

HIVoices is still a work in progress. The company says the show is consistently evolving. In the future, they hope to shorten the monologues in order to tell more stories.