Back in the Eternal City

I just arrived back in Rome for the opening of the The Access to Life / Global Fund Exhibition which is being held at the Museo dell’Ara Pacis in Rome, which will be open from September 18 to October 18.



I had photographed the AIDS patients before, but this assignment was different. It offered me the chance to see the positive results of the new AIDS treatments. The plan was that I was to meet people who were being given free treatment that would keep them alive.


Tiep had a breakfast stall in the market that was her family’s main source of income. But once people learned that her husband, Khanh (above)  had AIDS, many of them stopped buying food from her. Yet Khanh represents the positive side of the AIDS story; he’s now recovering and knows it wouldn’t have turned out this way had he not received free treatment.  Tiep feels that treatment has brought dignity back to her family.  “When you’re between death and life and you come back…your health becomes precious.”


Today, three million people around the world are alive thanks to antiretroviral treatment for AIDS, up from 350,000 just five years ago. By 2010, more than five million people are likely to have been given access to these drugs. Yet there is a long way to go before all the people with HIV who need these life-saving drugs have access to them. Today, the need is for 10 million people, but until we can stem the growth in new HIV infections, that number will continue to grow.

Many of us are in a position to help others, but few of us are aware of what we can do–or what a difference our contribution can make. I hope my photographs help people become more informed and find a way to contribute.


19 Responses to “Back in the Eternal City”

  1. Thank you so much Steve. These photos could have been taken in Vietnam. I saw the color of wall and detail there.

  2. andrewgould Says:

    Steve… Such powerful documentary images telling this story. Your approach to image making has been such an inspiration for me. Thanks for these lessons.

  3. hi steve – would be great to catch up for a drink – i will send you a text message
    my photography is going well – i need to spend some time editing my work from the last few years – i would like to start putting together some books – there is something wondering about them

    i enjoyed today’s blog post-i will leave a comment there

  4. Francesco Bonomo Says:

    I went to see it yesterday. Needless to say. the exhibition is fantastic, and i urge everyone who has a chance to go and see it, and spend some time there. Checj Global Fund and Magnum website for more info.

    I was so moved by Steve’s pictures, and by Majoli’s (on Russia) and Pellegrin’s (on Mali) essays. To be honest, ALL photographers did an amazing job, the exhibition shows hope, for sure, but also tragedy, and it’d been a while since i’d seen such a moving and balanced collection of images.

    Thank you for such an amazing piece of work, it was truly beautiful, and i think i came out with a better understanding of the issues, and with the will to make even a small effort in try and help solve the problems associated with this tragic epidemic in countries that we, as “modern” countries, too often forget about.

  5. hi steve – midnight at the oasis here and just stumbled across your blog – it’s terrific – love seeing all the images and reading the stories, particularly the story about chowpetty beach – hope to see you and catch up soon

    i got two friends to sign up for the india 2010 workshop and i am considering it as well

    Lastly, congradulations on the piece in FOCUS magazine – great interview


    • Good to hear from you Marcy. Hope you have been well. I’m in New York for a few days. If you’re around, let’s hook up for a drink. Glad you like the blog and thanks for having your two friends sign up for the India 2010 trip.

      How’s your photography coming? I just got back from an exhibition of mine in Rome.

      Hope to hear from you.


  6. I was in Ara Pacis the past sunday, I saw your photo, excellent work for the image and for the argument, every time you enchant me with your photo.

    Thank You

  7. Francesco Bonomo Says:

    Thanks for the post, Steve. I’m going to see the exhibition on tuesday or wednesday, any chance you’ll be around?
    I have been waiting for these pictures to come to Italy for a long time, and can’t wait to go to the Ara Pacis and see them!
    Grazie for the wonderful and inspiring work!!!

  8. A lovely and uplifting post.
    That first image is so poignant.

  9. I agree your opinion and the message from your picture. The sad guy who have AIDS can be enjoy his life that I can guess your first and last picture. Good drug can slow the disease progression, so people can enjoy their life for long time. Many doctor is thinking now that AIDS is a kind of chronic disease like hepatitis B or diabetes.

    I believe that the pictures taken by good talented and famous photographer like you can help the change of people’s false preconception about AIDS.

  10. AIDS is known since long, but at the same time there are many who are not informed on this. Sadly social rejection of person infected, can still be seen in many parts of world.

    Thanks to you for putting your thoughts and your art together.

  11. It’s awesome. Your snap. Your post.
    I can feel the life.

  12. Nice post! As they say, a picture speaks a thousand words and so do the ones you’ve put up. It’s nice and heartwarming to know that you are using the medium of photography to contribute to the world of the AIDS-affected.

    Yes, you’re right about the fact that many people today who’re affected by AIDS do not have access to the drugs…and the stigma attached to the disease is worse, as then, one(who’s Aids-affected) is fighting 2 battles simultaneously, the one within and the one outside.

    Great going Steve and hopin’ that many more people from all walks of life take an example from what you are doing…

  13. I really like your creative idea.
    Have you ever been to Taiwan?

  14. Thank you for this important and uplifting story!

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