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HIV Equal Online's Most Captivating Voices of 2014: Lisa Biagiotti

In honor of World AIDS Day 2014, HIV Equal Online is honoring 10 of the most captivating voices in HIV research, advocacy and care. The honorees were selected based upon the nominations of people from across the country who have been inspired by the work of these men and women. HIV Equal Online is proud to present the first annual list of Most Captivating Voices in HIV, and in the spirit of voices, will allow these men and women to speak for themselves.

Name: Lisa Biagiotti

Age: 35

Location: Los Angeles, California

Occupation: Journalist and Filmmaker 


What inspired you to become involved in your work with HIV?


The shock of statistics and the lack of attention and urgency that followed. I approached HIV as a journalist trying to find meaning in the data. What I found made me upend everything I thought I knew about this disease. When you look at the numbers, you expect to be going into Ground Zero of the AIDS epidemic, but what I found was something so quiet, so invisible -- and certainly not a priority.


What do you think contributes the most to HIV stigma today?


Silence and neglect on all levels. The AIDS bureaucracy is divisive and dismissive. It more resembles a sibling rivalry than a united fight against HIV/AIDS. Racist state policies and health departments discriminate the very people they’re supposed to serve. Organizations with outside agendas parachute into the South and further divide communities. Few communities work together, and survive (or not) with less and less.


What does it mean to you to be HIV Equal?


Solidarity with all people living with HIV, and equality of services that address the disease burden. HIV care should not be determined by who you are or where you live.


What do you hope to accomplish in your work with HIV?


I hope "deepsouth" provides a fresh, first-hand look at the experience of HIV in the American South. I hope that we are able to reframe the issue as a social illness and disease of poverty that continues to affect marginalized people. I hope the subjects of the film are stand-ins for many people with similar experiences within this region in crisis and across rural America.


How do you use your voice in the fight against HIV/AIDS?


In the past two years, we have been invited into 150 communities to screen "deepsouth." This World AIDS Day, we had 70 screenings with a 10-hour live stream, which included seven Q&As with the cast/crew. The movie has catalyzed conversations on ground and in communities.

These are forgotten areas, but not disinterested communities. I’ve used technology to go around the system to work with people directly on the front lines. I ran a Kickstarter campaign to finance the final costs of distribution because I had no organizational support. How is this possible when there is more interest in this issue than ever before? Now the film is released, and will be available to anyone who wants to see it. You can rent/download deepsouth right now on Yekra.


Check out the trailer and learn more about the film here.