Empowering and then some
What makes the performing art most compassionate for the AIDS/HIV movement is their ability to empower and change opinion of the disease on their audiences. Galia Boneh and Devan Jaganth, two academic scholars from the University of California L.A, researched performing arts effect on public opinion of AIDS. They claim that watching these live meaningful performances actually empower people living with aids through “personal empowerment… relational empowerment… [and] collective empowerment (458)”. Many of the “Speech Act-performance” were so moving that it changed the ideals of public opinions on people infected HIV/AIDS and the mindsets of those infected with the virus as well.
Research from HIV.org, a leading forefront in mental and physical research on the effects of HIV/AIDS, states that discussion with support groups and peers about struggles and pains can improve mental health and depression cause by AIDS. But the same research also produced that HIV/AIDS can cause “anxiety, negativity, and disinterest in engaging with other” (hiv.org). The mental struggle of dealing with AIDS prevent people from receiving the help that they need and so lack of communication with others is a testament to daily struggle of infected individuals. They are anchored down by the thought of the burdens they will be facing and often do not display healthy communication which leads to more consequences. But powerful performing arts plays and shows have shown to shift that balance and empowered victims of AIDS to establish a better line of communication with others. Boneh and Jaganth explains that “art can stimulate the imagination to visualize a better world and then push it to its realization (455)”. In this study performing theater and dance Boneh and Jaganth examined that “showing compassion” and displaying “positive images” in daily life of living with AIDS instilled a mental factor that pushed for that positiveness in themselves (456). With such anxiety with in victims it is difficult to bring up such controversial topics in fear of worsening depression so theater and dance sought to reach out to them instead. An example would be Dereck Jackson, a visual AIDS artist and member, describes pushing through AIDS by falling into music and performance that allowed him to have proactive conversations to deal with his disease and further his career. And another AIDS artist, Maria Davis spoke at the U.S conference on AIDS and describes how her love of music, modeling, and performing gave her the strength to communicate with her peers about the disease and confront it head on.