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March 20, 2009

P. Muzi Branch


CD cover

Richmond, VA ( - A compelling new CD of poetry and music examines the complexities of life with HIV/AIDS through the words of patients who are afflicted with the condition.

Living with It, which was produced by the Arts in Healthcare program at the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, features the poetry of HIV/AIDS patients set to music produced by internationally acclaimed saxophonist J. Plunky Branch and other professional musicians in the Richmond area. The project is designed to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, particularly in the African-American community, and to serve as a powerful tool of preventive education. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recent trends indicate that HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects the health of African-Americans, especially women and youth.

P. Muzi Branch, director of the VCUHS Arts In Healthcare Program, said the project utilizes the arts to teach and to encourage individual and community action in response to a communal crisis.

"By presenting personal testimonies in this unique format, we can work to reach a younger generation about HIV/AIDS and its dangers," Branch said. "This CD will appeal to those who look to soul music, hip-hop, spoken word and jazz as sources of information and inspiration."

The CD includes 12 original poems written by adult patients at the VCUHS Women's and Children's Clinic for Infectious Disease. The poets were offered anonymity or the use of a pseudonym, but most chose to use their real names and several opted to read their work on the CD.

Dennis Hymes' poem Living With It was chosen as the title selection because of its determination and affirmation in the face of HIV/AIDS. Two of the poets, Da General and Jan├ęt, are sisters who were both infected with HIV by their mother. Mailika Green's "Brighter Days Ahead" is a reminder that things can get better.

"We are grateful for these patients' boldness and their willingness to share insights, to warn others about the dangers of the condition and to offer themselves as positive encouragement to inspire us all," Branch said. "We could not have made this CD without them."

The Poetry and Music CD will be disseminated to the general public and offered to both patients in treatment and those newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS to help with awareness, education, therapy and relaxation. Branch said research data will be collected during the project to measure its effectiveness.

The project was partially funded by a grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

For more information about the Poetry and Music CD project, or to order a copy of the CD, contact P. Muzi Branch, director of Arts In Healthcare at the VCU Health System, at (804) 828-4706.

About VCU and the VCU Medical Center:
Virginia Commonwealth University is the largest university in Virginia and ranks among the top 100 universities in the country in sponsored research. Located on two downtown campuses in Richmond, VCU enrolls 32,000 students in 205 certificate and degree programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-five of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU's 15 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University compose the VCU Medical Center, one of the nation's leading academic medical centers. For more, see

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