Artist and HIV activist Matthew Terrell has unveiled a new piece of public art on the grounds of the National Center for Civil and Human rights to highlight the growth of HIV diagnoses in metro Atlanta.

The 8-foot-tall pyramid called  “Atlanta’s HIV+ Population Now” uses CDC data to chart the growth of new cases and will be updated weekly to reflect the number of HIV+ people living in the city.

Terrell said the “data driven” project, sponsored by AIDS Healthcare Foundation,  takes inspiration from the iconic Atlanta’s Population Now sign located on Peachtree Street. He said figures show that more than 30,000 people in Atlanta live with an HIV diagnosis, and four more people are diagnosed everyday. The CDC reports that up to 13 percent of people with HIV are untested and undiagnosed, which means thousands of Atlantans don’t know they are HIV+.

“Since 1996 when antiretrovirals were introduced, those with HIV are living long and healthy lives; no one really dies from AIDS anymore,” Terrell said. “There’s an entire generation who doesn’t know anyone with AIDS. They don’t remember what happened in the 1980s and early 90s. But new infections are occurring the most in those under age 24. HIV is still a hard-hitting, expensive, deadly disease, but much quieter now. I want the piece to remind people that this is still chipping away at quality of life in our community.”

Terrell, who is also the communications director for Dad’s Garage Theatre Company, will update the numbers in the marquee display weekly through June 27, which is National HIV Testing Day. These weekly updates will occur Fridays at noon. The artist will be on hand to discuss HIV with visitors, and to talk about the meaning of the project during these weekly visits.


Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.