News Articles

CISWH’s Black Women First Initiative Uses Participatory Art to Promote Health and Empower Client Voices

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Art can be an impactful tool to process emotions and grief, spark capacity for empathy, and promote healing. In a new research brief, the Black Women First Initiative (BWF), a project from the Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health at BU School of Social Work (BUSSW), shares how the team utilizes art therapy and other arts-based interventions—including photography, filmmaking, and theater—to build community and reduce social isolation and stigma amongst Black women living with HIV.

“Overall, the arts settle people and bring them together. There is something in it for every human. We are all drawn to the beauty of a voice or music or a painting or a story,” say the authors. “Agencies need to look outside of the usual ways to increase engagement and introducing the arts is a great place to start.”

These approaches foster emotional connections, reduce social isolation, address stigma and provide education to the HIV community. Art can also be an avenue for people with HIV to express harm and health from traumatic experiences they encounter in health care settings. These approaches prioritize the voices of Black women with HIV, and provide more holistic forms of care.

The Black Women First Initiative, featuring a team of researchers from BUSSW including alumni Melanie Rocco (SSW’21) and Mahlet Meshesha (SSW’19) and Profs. Judith Scott and Linda Sprague Martinez, supports the design, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-informed resources for Black women with HIV, including stigma reduction, trauma-informed care, health literacy, and expanded delivery of HIV care services.

Read the full brief here.