For 19 years, Dr. Avery has worked as an HIV psychiatrist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. Evidence shows that psychiatric disorders are common in people living with HIV. For many, the psychiatric disorders were present before HIV and are associated with HIV risk exposure and infection. After infection with HIV, these disorders impair quality of life and often complicate treatment adherence.
HIV psychiatric patients tell stories that often share two common themes: 1) Traumatic childhoods (verbal, physical, emotional and sexual abuse) associated with low self-esteem, shame and depression; and 2) Street drugs (marijuana, alcohol and cocaine) used to alleviate internal pain.
Survivors of childhood abuse often find themselves caught in cycles of compulsive behaviors, which replicate parts of a traumatic past. These common themes are represented in woodcut frames that surround portraits of Dr. Avery’s patients who agreed to have their portraits drawn by him. The frames are generalized representation of HIV risk shared by numbers of patients.