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Theater artist Rhodessa Jones used skills she had honed working with incarcerated and formerly-incarcerated women to explore with constituents of The Women’s HIV Program at UCSF  the impact of AIDS in the lives of HIV+ African American women.  One goal of the project was to support women who feel too stigmatized and ashamed of their HIV diagnosis to be “out” with their families and communities–a secrecy that leads to depression, isolation, and a reluctance to seek medical help.

Through this collaboration, Jones developed a new work, Dancing with the Clown of Love, beginning her process with a workshop that involved women cared for by The Women’s HIV Program. Content developed with the women was honed into performances that featured eight of the HIV+ women in the cast along with former inmates, community actors, and youth.

At the project’s culmination, Dr. Edward Machtinger, Director of The Women’s HIV Program, wrote, “Participants describe the results as transformative. The woman who participated all publicly disclosed their HIV status. They developed confidence and pride in themselves. They created a more supportive and open community among themselves….”

Rhodessa Jones brought to this project more than 20 years of experience working with marginal populations in San Francisco, throughout the United States, and internationally. She is the recipient of many honors and awards for her work, including a recent United States Artists award.

The Women’s HIV Program at UCSFMedicalCenter provides comprehensive health and social services to women and children living with HIV/AIDS in the San Francisco. It is the first program of its kind in the world, and the only such Bay Area program to care for both women and their children.