Demetruis R. Green believes in self-care and living life fearlessly — two tenets he shares with his clients and that he helped enshrine for all Detroiters in a new mural on the Wayne Health building. The mural — titled “The Key to Ending the HIV Epidemic” — features bright, bold colors, Detroit iconography, and nods to nature while celebrating community and advances in science.
As PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) coordinator at the Detroit Public Health STD Clinic, located inside Wayne Health at 50 E. Canfield Street, Green has provided PrEP to nearly 1,200 clients over the last four years. PrEP, which can be taken as a daily pill or injection, prevents HIV in people who are at very high risk for infection.
A native Detroiter and artist, Green enjoys serving Detroit and has worked to incorporate color and art inside and out of the clinic.
A welcoming place
“I love this position, and being able to help people and also work on early intervention. Because of advances in treatment and prevention, I’m seeing my clients live fearlessly, and that should be celebrated,” said Green. “This clinic should be an inviting place — we want people to come to us, and to feel welcome here. I always tell my clients that they have so many options. We have so many ways to help — you just have to show up for yourself.”
After noting Green’s artistic talent, his colleagues encouraged him to enter a contest through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ Undetectable = Untransmissible HIV prevention awareness program to fund the mural and make the clinic more visible.
Signs of compassion, celebrations of progress
Completed over four and a half days and unveiled on July 23, “The Key to Ending the HIV Epidemic” was conceptualized in three sections that ultimately connect as portals. Green said he worked to blend elements of nature — lush greenery, butterflies, flowers and fruit — and industry — the skyline, gears, and a vial— as symbols of progress and compassion.
“The foliage is meant to represent growth — both personally and as a community. There’s a vial overflowing with a rainbow, representing science as a vehicle of hope and magic,” Green said.
Green said that progress served as a major theme in the mural’s development. He noted the significant, and relatively recent, progress made in HIV treatment and prevention. Biomedical and scientific research have enabled more accessible HIV tests, successful treatment options, such as injections in place of pills, and prevention strategies that have improved care for people with HIV and enabled those living with HIV who know their status to live long, healthy lives with little risk of transmitting HIV to others.
“The lemon in front of the gears represents the hope brought by progress in modern science and in HIV treatment options, but also the progress we continue to make in building trust between our community and health care providers. We’ve made great strides in the way our community views HIV, and we’re continuing to break down stigmas and other barriers to care.”
Also featured are two portals connected by a ribbon, representing treatment and prevention options, and a heart with a key, symbolizing the critical role that compassion and ending the epidemic play in Detroit. Local muralist Lindy Marshew painted the feathers behind the prominently featured heart.
A work of love, collaboration
Green said that while creating the mural, it morphed over time to reflect not only the community the clinic serves, but also his and his colleagues’ passions. Present in the mural are lemons — a nod to a medical assistant who runs lemonade stands; butterflies and a ladybug in reference to his relationship with his sister and niece; and sunflowers — a favorite decoration for one of his teammates.
“I wanted our team to see themselves in this mural, too. They’re here every day doing the work, so it was important that they be included in some way,” Green said. “One of the greatest things about art is that it’s always open for personal interpretation. It can mean anything to anyone.”
Drawn to art and nature by his grandmother, who lived to be 102, Green now participates in local art shows. His work has been featured at various galleries and shows, including Hotter Than July Fine Arts, Poor Man’s Art Collective, the Pittman-Putnam Gallery and more. You can view more of his work on Instagram.
Renovations at Wayne Health are ongoing, and an open house is slated for the fall. “The Key to Ending the HIV Epidemic” can be viewed at 50 E. Canfield Street.