“Story of a Girl” Project

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The “Story of a Girl” Project is an advocacy-based project by Visual Epidemiology that will integrate a series of narrative, professional short films with personal stories to convey the true impact of international aid programs that fund HIV treatment, education, programming, and support. The goal of the Project is to reinvigorate support for such programs.

With more and more research and advocacy conveying the importance of access to antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) to HIV patients, our concept is to step away from the discussion of disease; we will explore relatable experiences of life, love, and relationships. Using a series of seven engaging and cathartic professional narrative films (‘pillar’ films), we will show that on a foundation of health provided by sustained and reliable ARV treatment from international aid programs, individuals affected by HIV lead healthy, vibrant, and productive lives that transcend their HIV status. Though the messaging in each film will be the same, professional films will be in a different global region and have a different story structure – showing that HIV is a truly global pandemic. Pillar films will involve professional writers and filmmakers working in collaboration with NGOs and their constituents to ensure both authenticity and professionalism.

We will back these pillar films with real-life, self-filmed personal stories of women affected by HIV. In each global region, we will partner with local NGOs who provide treatment, education, and support to individuals affected by HIV. We will provide them with ‘self-filming’ kits and basic training, allowing the women they serve to film their own stories – not of their disease, but whatever is most important in their lives through their own words and personality.

We will make these stories dynamic by implementing a novel web-based data entry and mapping platform that will allow participating individuals to update their story in real time using any data-sending device. As such, if a woman’s personal story is about her infant son, she can update her story via cell phone the morning of his first day of school; or if she speaks about her dream to start a small business, she can tell the world when she makes her first sale. Over time, we can spread this input over both spatial and temporal dimensions to visualize the true impact and positive externalities that go along with improving health.

The final result of the project will be an ever-growing community of NGOs and individuals demonstrating that access to medication does not simply provide good health, but fuller and more productive lives.