When Lisa Klug’s friend was diagnosed with HIV in 1998, Klug was devastated.
But Klug and her friend decided to make the best out of a bad situation — by telling her story.
Now, about 20 years later, Klug is being honored for a graphic novel she created to tell her friend’s story. Klug’s work will be displayed today, which is World AIDS Day.
Klug, 56, along with three others, entered a graphic novel contest hosted by UF Health Science Center Libraries and the Sequential Artists Workshop to educate people on what it’s like to live with AIDS. The novels, which ranged from three to 10 pages, were judged by a panel of four people, including two artists, a librarian and a GatorWell specialist.
“I think we both had a real bittersweet feeling about (winning),” Klug said. “Part of me was like ‘Oh yes, we won’ and then I’m like, ‘but it’s her story’. I really wish I had never been able to write it. I wish she weren’t ill.”
Ariel Pomputius, one of the organizers of the contest and a UF Health Science Center Libraries liaison librarian, said the idea came from thinking about ways to engage the student community.
“We came up with the idea of creating comics,” Pomputius said. “Then we thought if we get people involved and encourage people to create their own comics, then that is even more engagement.”
She said they hoped by creating a visual product, students would be more interested in learning about HIV and AIDS.
The comic contest opened in May, she said, and entries were due in the Fall.
“We wanted creative and engaging messages,” Pomputius said. “But we also wanted them to be accurate in terms of the health information that they were putting in them, too.”
All entries were compiled in a magazine and will be given out at an artist workshop today. Pages from the graphic novels will be enlarged and displayed on the walls, giving people the chance to walk through the novels, she said.
Klug said she’s incredibly proud of her friend for making the best of her life with the disease.
“It’s very important for younger people to understand this disease has not gone away,” Klug said, “And anyone can catch it.”
Along with UF Health Science Center Libraries, other student groups are raising awareness for World AIDS Day. Gators for Results, Students Taking Action Against Racism and GatorWell will be on Turlington Plaza today passing out condoms and red ribbons, which symbolize AIDS awareness.
Gabriella Insabella, the president of Gators for Results and a UF health education and behavior senior, said the event is important because of the continuing stigma around AIDS and HIV.
Evelyn Veras, the agency chair for Students Taking Action Against Racism, said the group is participating because of continuing health disparities across races. Veras said, for example, Latinos in the U.S. are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV.
“I hope that our event helps provide resources along with reducing the stigma around AIDS,” Insabella, 21, said. “We really want to show our campus and the Gainesville community we’re all ready to take action to put an end to AIDS.”