Friday, December 23, 2011

Thirty Years of AIDS: The AIDS Alphabet--J is for (pneumonia Jiroveci) and also for Journey Through Darkness

Thirty (30!) Years of AIDS: The AIDS Alphabet--J is for (Pneumonia Jiroveci) and also for Journey Through Darkness

"Lava Fields: Journey from Crater to Ocean"

In the AIDS alphabet, the letter J is for Jiroveci, aka AIDS pneumonia, PCP or Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. PCP is a lung infection commonly seen in people with compromised immune system. PCP, otherwise known as AIDS pneumonia, usually occurs in patients with a T cell count below 200. As in the case of CMV (cytomegalovirus), the organism that causes PCP can enter the healthy human body and live peacefully in it for the rest of its life, not causing any damages. Only when the immune system weakens or deteriorates, the organism activates and can cause pneumonia. In the early days of AIDS, PCP was too often a regular cause of AIDS related death for AIDS patients. Medications used for treatment of PCP include: Bactrim, Pentamidine, Mepron (Atovaquone), and Primaquine.

"Lava Fields: Close-Up"
As a side-note, after years of using HAART regimens to keep in check opportunistic infections (O.I.s) like PCP (pneumonia jiroveci), an alarming news spread through the community--PCP is back. To find out more, check out the related A&U article.

Aside from the medical terms, J is also for Journey--the journey we all take through life, the journey individuals living with life-threatening diseases (like cancer or AIDS) take on their way to recovery. On a more personal note, Kurt Weston's image "Journey Through Darkness" inspired Journeys Through Darkness, the book I wrote on Weston's life and art. Here's a short excerpt describing the making of "Journey Through Darkness," from Weston's series of self-portraits called Blind Vision.

As always, thanks for stopping by,

Excerpt from Chapter Six: Journey Through Darkness

cover of Journeys Through Darkness a biography by Alina Oswald with photographs by Kurt Weston
Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography
The Blind Vision series is only one of Weston’s works to capture an allegorical portrait of the visual artist as he traverses through his journey. In that sense, art becomes an amazing vehicle for Weston, allowing him to use his own life experiences to communicate, inspire, inform and also to visually intrigue his audience. From his perspective, Kurt Weston considers art a means through which people can experience the nature of their humanity. Art can be silly and fun, and it can be entertaining. It can communicate a tremendous amount of information, emotion, and inspiration. In today’s society, consumed by superficial realities, Kurt Weston’s art goes beyond the physical realm of human existence and into a metaphysical dimension, connecting with the viewer on a more profound and spiritual level.
    “I think my life is meaningful,” Weston comments, talking about his source of inspiration. For him life is so fragile and it can be gone in an instant. That’s reason enough for the artist to capture his experience with disability, loss, pain and death in his visual art, because the experience defines him as a real person and also as an artist.
    Although his most recent works include digital photography and sometimes require no camera at all (just a flat scanner which he uses to scan in people’s faces and also his own face), Weston uses regular film and he prints his images on silver gelatin paper so that they can last forever. He wants future generations to be able to look at this work and say, “This was happening at this time in history and this is the impact it left on people whose lives it touched, this pandemic.”
    To Weston, black-and-white is a medium in itself in terms of representing reality. He doesn’t want color to be an “intrusion” in his work, a “distraction” from the message his art communicates to the viewer. Black-and-white offers Weston’s art a concentration of expression. And he likes that intensity, in particular in his portraits.
    Kurt Weston began creating the Blind Vision series in 2000. To represent his visual disturbance described as “pieces of cotton stuck in my eye, floating every time I move my eye,” the artist sprayed a glass with foaming glass cleaner and took a self-portrait sitting behind it. “You see my hand pushing away the foam, which is what I would love to do,” he explains, “I would like to be able to wipe away all that cotton that keeps floating in front of my eye and get a clear view of what I want to see out in the world.”     

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