A gay Atlanta artist joined with HIV activists on Tuesday to unveil an HIV clock to raise awareness of the disease and paint its impact in stark numbers for the public to see.
Matthew Terrell created the art sculpture "Atlanta's HIV + Population Now" to track the number of HIV diagnoses in five metro Atlanta counties – Fulton, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett. On Tuesday, he stood with officials from AID Atlanta and its parent, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, as it was installed on the grounds of the Center for Civil & Human Rights in downtown Atlanta.
"Human rights and HIV are inextricably linked," Terrell said. "Both of these organizations promote healthcare, education and equality as a means to end HIV and AIDS around the world.”
The numbers on the 8-foot pyramid – 30,162 people currently living with HIV – are daunting even for Georgia, which ranks fifth in the nation for new HIV infections. Each Friday until National HIV Testing Day on June 27, Terrell will update the number by 28 – the average number of HIV diagnoses every seven days in the five-county region.
Terrell said the sculpture is a reminder that an HIV epidemic is still raging in metro Atlanta.
"Too many people have forgotten about HIV and they think the problem has been solved because very few people die from AIDS now. What has resulted is a virus that sneaks into communities and chips away at quality of life," he said.
The sculpture was created with support from the AHF Grant Fund. It uses data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention that has been compiled by the AIDSvu Map project at Emory University.
"I want this piece to remind them that HIV has not gone away. We all live with HIV and we all must contribute to ending it," Terrell said.