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No. 19 of 20 Most Amazing HIV-Positive Women: Jessica Whitbread

No. 19 of 20 Most Amazing HIV-Positive Women: Jessica Whitbread


This amazing organizer and activist might be making her biggest dent with old fashioned tea parties — with a modern twist.

An impressive artist and social media agitator, Jessica Whitbread was global chair of the International Community of Women Living with HIV, the youngest and first queer woman to be elected. Today she serves as their community relations and mobilization manager. She’s also the founder of the first International Chapter of Young Women, Adolescents, and Girls living with HIV, a steering committee member for AIDS Action Now, a board member of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network in Toronto, and an organizer of LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN: Romance Starts at Home or No Pants No Problem.

But it’s her community art — merging activism, commentary, and artistry—that deserves equal accolades. She uses her own body as the site of her work, making for often-uncomfortable epiphanies around our interpretations of sexuality and desire and the intersection with HIV. She also sponsors “tea parties” (yes, those old icons of domesticity) but uses them to share stories and discuss real issues around women and health, HIV and sexuality, and social change.

During her residency at the North Carolina’s McColl Center for Art and Innovation, Whitbread went beyond HIV to explore and map the powerful women doing important social change work in Charlotte, NC. These stories were captured in an audio installation and used as collective consciousness raising through art on issues raised including sexual trauma, racism, sexual and reproductive rights, poverty, and gender-based violence, as well as to deconstruct ideas of gender and sexuality. Through a series of open forums, both at the center and in the community, Whitbread led discussions and story-sharing opportunities aimed at healing. 

"I really wanted to capture the often often undocumented, unacknowledged and un-celebrated history of women doing important community building and social change work via tea parties," Whitbread says. 

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