NEW ORLEANS — Normally, when a research group is done completing their findings they compile it all in a big report with pages of analysis and data.
So, one healthcare group is deciding to do things a little differently to educate the public about the real impacts of HIV.
The performance “Take My Hand” is based on HIV research conducted by ViiV Healthcare in New Orleans, a city with the 5th highest rate of new cases in the U.S. The stories in the play are powerful and deeply rooted in isolation, because that’s what living with HIV can feel like.
In “Take My Hand,” actress Roxie Johnson plays Jade, a character who is HIV positive. She says highlighting the alarming data on HIV rates is important, which is why the show aims at viewers’ emotions.
“When you get to people’s hearts versus just throwing numbers at them, you actually put a face to what some people just call a disease. We are more than that; people are human," Johnson said.
Johnson says her character goes through anger, trust issues and more as she, and the people around her, discover she has HIV.
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People can’t support what they don’t understand, which is why Marc Meachem, head of external affairs with ViiV Healthcare, says the play is meant to leave a more lasting impact than information on a billboard or pamphlet.
“What we found with a doing a cultural engagement, you actually get people to focus in on an issue for a longer period than they would in today's society," Meachem said.
The performance also talks about overcoming the disease through treatment for people who do have HIV, which Meachem says is more manageable than ever before.
"With the standard of care that's available today, people don't have to wait to be diagnosed, people don't have to wait to be treated and they don't have to experience that advanced disease," he said.
It’s also meant for those who don’t have HIV, like Johnson, who hopes others will learn as much watching the play as she learns performing it.
“That's how I know Take My Hand is so effective, because it had such a great effect on me," Johnson said.