An exhibit of photographs of Venice Arts’ photo documentary projects will premier during the annual Venice Art Walk in May before traveling to other venues, according to Jim Hubbard, Venice Arts creative director.

Venice Arts conducted photography workshops in impoverished townships of Cape Town, South Africa, teaching a group of 15 HIV-infected mothers and children how to use cameras to tell their stories about living with AIDS.

The women expressed their interest in sharing both their struggles and their joys in hopes that their photography will raise awareness and help erode the stigma of living with AIDS, Hubbard said.

The project began several years ago when television producer and writer Neal Baer and photographer Jim Hubbard brainstormed about how to best use their talents and resources to raise awarness about a variety of health-related issues through photographic exhibits and books.

A team from Venice Arts and Baer went to Cape Town, South Africa earlier this month to work with the Mothers’ Programmes, recently visited and recognized by First Lady Laura Bush.

The Mothers’ Programmes provides peer-based AIDS education and clinical program for HIV-infected women across 60 sites in five provinces of South Africa.

Most of the women at the Cape Town clinics are from the Eastern Cape and reside in Cape Town’s impoverished townships.

Many of the Mothers Programmes’ participants are women who have chosen to fight the stigma association with HIV disease by “coming out” about their illness and working to educate and support other pregnant women.

“Each year one million babies are born in South Africa and more than 200,000 of them are born to mothers who are living with HIV. Without treatment, over 25 percent of these mothers will transmit the virus to their newborns — accounting for nearly 70,000 children born each year with the virus that causes AIDS, said Venice Arts officials associated with the project.

“Neal Baer, Jim Hubbard and the rest of the Venice Arts team are eminently qualified to teach photo-documentary methods to women at the Mothers Programmes,” said Lynn Warshafsky, Venice Arts co-founder.