Enhancing the health and social wellbeing of children and young people living with HIV


Art is Key is a creative youth engagement project we run in partnership with Turtle Key Arts. The project provides the opportunity for young people to explore their experiences of growing up with HIV, by working with professional artists, and using music, drama, and spoken word to share stories and thoughts. The project is for 17+ year olds, living with HIV from across the UK or Ireland. Typically the project involves an initial short residential across a weekend where young people build relationships and develop trust and rapport with each other and the staff support team. The project plan for that year is scoped out with the young people, who share ideas on themes they would like to explore, and creative forms they are interested in.

The experience of HIV is always central and often the focus is around the experience of transitioning to adulthood, reflecting the age of the participants. We have found using the arts as a means to share, and begin to process feelings, thoughts and experiences, enables therapeutic support to be provided where some young people may have found expressing such feelings verbally, or in more formal therapeutic relationships, more challenging. The 'pieces' produced from these projects provide powerful insights into the lived experiences and thoughts and feelings of young people growing up with HIV. This can be helpful to share with other young people to enable connections with shared feelings and experiences and illustrate the potential benefits of coming together and taking part in such activities.

In the 2019 Art is Key project the group created a podcast of materials derived from this project, including conversations, poetry and music which explore the participants experiences of growing up living with HIV. All material in the podcast was written by the young people, the background music was produced by one of the participants, and the narrator was one of the project facilitators, also a young adult who has grown up with HIV. The podcast was named The ArcHIVe by the group. 

Participants shared an edited live version of the PodCast at the CHIVA 10th Annual support camp in 2019. The young people at camp responded very positively to the performance which resulted in spontaneous dancing and joining in the song about being part of CHIVA which was heartwarming to witness.


This Art is Key project was funded by The Co-op Foundation, who were supporting projects specifically aimed at addressing youth loneliness. 

Art is Key 2018 was a Youth Participation project for 17+ year olds living with HIV. The project provided participants with the opportunity to explore experiences of growing up with HIV using spoken word, storytelling, music, dance and drama. 

Alongside working on a final day performance for a closed invited audience, participants shared stories and participated in detailed individual interviews discussing their experiences of living with HIV, to form the basis of a performance based short film and theatre piece, 'Life Growing Up' written and produced by Danny Scheinmann and Sarah Sutcliffe. The film was then made with actors and was launched to coincide with World AIDS Day 2018. A live performance of the film script and live music score were performed at the International Aids Conference in Amsterdam in July 2018, and have since been performed at CHIVA and BHIVA Conferences. You can find out more about the project here, and watch the film here.


In 2015, 20 HIV positive young people aged 17 and over participated in a film making process facilitated by Turtle Key Arts. The group of young people formed a production company to create their film about growing up living with HIV in the UK.


Using the expressive arts of writing, drama, music and film making, young people could share their experiences of what it is like to have grown up living with HIV in the UK. In the first session, in October 2015, participants worked alongside a professional film maker and drama facilitator to explore the subject matter in depth. There were activities to generate ideas, characters and scenarios that formed the starting point to develop into a short film.

Between October and April the group continued to work on their ideas, with input from both CHIVA and the filmmaker. After the end of the film making week at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith,  there was a sharing of the work in progress for family, friends and an invited closed audience. (All participants in the film have their identity protected).



 (Above images shows work in the recording studio, and the private film launch and screening)