The art of human rights: A knowledge translation project by, with, and for women living with HIV in Australia


  • Dr Allison Carter, Senior Lecturer, Kirby Institute, UNSW
  • Ms Jane Costello, CEO Positive Life NSW
  • Dr Patricia Morgan, Senior Research Associate, Justice Health Research Program, UNSW Sydney.
  • Professor Katherine Boydell, The Black Dog Institute, UNSW
  • Dr Asha Persson, Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Centre for Social Research in Health, UNSW
  • Associate Professor and Associate Dean (Enterprise, Impact, and Engagement) Christy Newman, Centre for Social Research in Health, UNSW
  • Dr Deborah Bateson, Medical Director of Family Planning NSW and Clinical Associate Professor at University of Sydney and Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Social Research in Health, UNSW Sydney.


This project was part of the Australian Human Rights Institute's 2021 seed funding round, receiving $10,000.


Globally, women make up more than half of the 38 million people living with HIV. And in every context, these women are impacted by stigma, discrimination, exclusion, and violence that impede their human rights -- such as the right to privacy and confidentiality, to freedom from coercion and harm, and to accessing information and services to achieve optimal health and wellbeing.

In Australia, women living with HIV are an invisible minority, and their stories of stigma and resilience are largely hidden. In 2018, it was estimated that there were 3,370 women living with HIV across the country, or 10% of people who are living with HIV in Australia.

The Positively Women research project was developed to make visible their lived experiences of HIV, and to document the impacts of creative methods in changing stigmatising and discriminatory attitudes in the general public.

The Kirby Institute, in close partnership with Positive Life NSW and HIV community organisations across Australia, launched the Positively Women Project exhibition at:

The exhibition, which celebrates the lives of women living with HIV throughout Australia, highlights the strength and creativity of these women, depicting the joys and struggles of their daily lives including the stigma and discrimination they continue to face.

The project coordinators are currently inviting people to visit the site and participate in a short survey. This research is being conducted to understand if viewing women's images and stories change understandings of and attitudes towards HIV.

The artists have been so proud to see their work featured in the following:

2022 project update

The research team, which includes Institute Associate Dr Allison Carter, conducted further research into impacts of the Positively Women virtual tours, which consisted of examining impacts of an abbreviated form of the Meditative Process Art (MPA) method that was created for the project.

Findings from this research are currently being written up, for a peer-reviewed paper.

The Positively Women virtual exhibition has been used in the Reflective Medical Practitioner seminar with 5th and 6th year medical students. The need for these seminars was revealed by Positively Women participant’s reports of stigma and discrimination that they regularly experienced in medical settings. The fourth and last seminar was conducted in early October 2022 and student feedback that was conducted across the four seminars will form the basis of a peer-reviewed paper on the impacts of the seminars.

These findings will also support a funding application to continue the seminars in 2023. A paper on the MPA method has been finished and is in the final editing stage, and the second paper resulting from the project has been completed.