Processing Midterm

So I made this for my midterm project after having a breakdown over trying to “visualize” and “map” data — specifically, HIV transmissions statistics. I learned I was not yet ready for such an epic undertaking and decided to try something fun….so fun I had! Check out my animation here.

Original Midterm Idea

Goal: To display HIV transmission statistics comparing countries with needle exchange programs and countries that to not offer needle exchange programs and harm reduction education in IDUs (injecting drug users) in a visually compelling way.

Statistics:

  • More than 60 percent of those infected with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia received the virus through intravenous drug use,
    One-third of all AIDS cases are linked to injection drug use. (Source: WHO
  • For women, 64 percent of all AIDS cases are due to injection drug use or sex with partners who inject drugs. Injection drug use is the source of infection for more than half of all children born with HIV. (Source: WHO
  • The investigators estimated that the needle exchange program reduced the risk of HIV transmission among program participants by one third. (Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)



I wanted to illustrate the success of needle exchange programs in decreasing HIV transmissions, particularly in areas where injecting drug use is a primary transmission factor. I have been interested in harm reduction for a number of years for some time. I recently read the Panos Dossier entitled AIDS and the Third World published in association with the Norwegian Red Cross from 1989 and Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. Both books inspired me in different ways to continue pursuing my immense passion for public health and fighting HIV/AIDS stigma. I was really interested making information about the immense and ongoing atrocity of the AIDS pandemic visually accessible and overwhelming.

My initial thoughts were to select a specific location and compare transmission rates before and after needle exchange programs were implemented. I thought about different ways to show that impact — to show some sort of visual of “shrinking” but I couldn’t quite put a grasp on it. Next, I thought of looking at broad range infection rates. I thought about creating a visual symbol to represent X number of infections in a year. Then I thought if about 1,200 people are infected each minute it might really create impact to display an object repeating at even intervals over a blank screen over the course of six minutes. The screen would be full really fast and the images would start to layer. I wasn’t really sure how to control the placement of the objects.

The United Nation’s Development Programme / Millennium Development Goals has a really awesome interactive map looking at various countries and mapping development statistics. I looked at this format as an example of handling data visually.

After a few days of gleaning statistics and looking at existing interactive data displays available, I decided to step back and reassess before delving into a rather epic project I was still feeling pretty unsure about how to start.

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