Focus on Living exhibit at the MA Library

The cover of the book Focus on Living

Marin Academy is very honored this week to host Roslyn Banish’s exhibit Focus on Living: Portraits of Americans with HIV & AIDS. Banish’s exhibit is constantly on tour and travels through schools, colleges, worship centers, medical facilities, museums, conferences, and libraries.  The exhibit at the MA library is actually Banish’s personal copy of her exhibit, which she has been generous enough to share with the MA community is honor of World AIDS Day (December 1).

MA teacher Susan Adams is friends with Banish and helped organize the exhibit.  Susan feels that there is still so much misinformation about AIDS and that, “education is everything.”  Regarding the exhibit, Susan said,

“There is a clarity and simplicity to the photos—they’re so stark, and the stories really catch you.”

Susan and I spoke about how AIDS once was thought of as the “gay disease” and how Banish’s work shows that HIV / AIDS affects everyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, and sexual preference.

Sanjai Moses, Dean of Multicultural Life at MA, visited the exhibit and I asked her what she thought students could glean from this exhibit. Sanjai got involved with peer education in her freshman year, and spent the next 12 years in HIV / AIDS related education and prevention for Bay Area youth.  She shared the following:

The people in the photos are people just like you and me. This year there will be 46,000 new infections of HIV-34% will be among young people ages 13-25. I hope that the exhibit inspires our students to get involved in HIV activism and reminds the entire community that HIV has not gone away.

We spoke a little about how the perception of HIV / AIDS has changed over the years and how new pharmaceuticals have impacted how people, especially young people, think about the disease. Sanjai, while cautioning that young people still need to be aware of HIV, also stated,  “With new medications and treatments, people assume that HIV can be a manageable long-term illness. This can be true for some but not all. HIV/AIDS is still a silent disease in many communities including communities of color and low income communities who cannot afford treatment.”

Banish’s photography, as Susan mentioned, is stark, direct, and honest.  The portraits show strong individuals looking back at us, sharing their stories both visually and textually.  The show runs from Until December 11–come see it for yourself.

More information about Focus on Living: Portraits of Americans with HIV & AIDS can be found at

Other helpful sites:

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention–HIV

World Aids Day

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