Kia Labeija (AKA Kia Benbow) is a vogue dancer who turns the style into the highest art. The 25-year-old is part of one of the most renowned dance troupes, House of Labeija. Her website describes her work:
“As a visual artist, she stages digital portraits as theatrical and cinematic re-imaginings of non-fictional events to spark conversation, complicating the way we view her subjects and the spaces they occupy. Her Portraiture utilizes the medium of story telling, to preserve histories, and make sociopolitical commentaries on current events.”
Labeija was born with HIV and lost her mother when she was 14 years old. HIV Plus Mag featured her in February. She chooses to celebrate life instead of fearing death, and hopes to help build an artistic life that reflects her outlook. Kia uses her platform as an artist to connect with those born into the virus who lost their parents at a young age. Her incredible vibrancy comes through as she vogues through the streets of Bogota in search of her lover.
HIV Plus Mag describes Labeija’s work:
“Benbow, who cofounded the artists’ collective #GenAIDS to utilize art to connect with the younger generation and popular culture, wants to see an artistic revival in which the reflection of HIV and AIDS is not about fear and death (present in much good AIDS art in the 1980s and ’90s) but celebration of life. Her work reminds us that HIV and AIDS aren’t over, but neither are the people living with the virus. For young people like her, HIV isn’t ‘sad,’ it’s merely a part of their lives, tied up with feelings about youth and vitality and sexuality in a way we’ve never really seen expressed before.”
HIV and AIDS are not just a feminist issue — they are a LGBTQIA issue. They are a Black issue. They are a Brown issue. They are a Native American issue and a white issue and an Asian American/Pacific Islander issue. As #GenAIDS shirts say, “AIDS isn’t racist, but you are.” HIV and AIDS goes beyond all secular and political agendas and encompass something much larger than that: HIV and AIDS are a HUMAN issue.
HIV Vaccine Awareness Day (HVAD) is observed annually on May 18. It’s a day where we can thank all volunteers and health workers for everything they do. It’s also a day to educate and let the world know what needs to be done to further research, treat those with the virus and protect those at risk of getting sick. It’s recommended that people between the ages of 15 and 64 get tested a minimum of once a year. Sexually active folks should be tested more often, especially if they have recently been potentially exposed to the virus.