A month ago images of a life with HIV came into focus on a single day. On Sept. 21, 2012, more than 170 people from around the world took a photograph that, taken together, tells the collective story of the trials and triumphs of living with HIV. A record of that day is now captured in an online photo essay, A Day with HIV released today, and soon to be published in the next issue of Positively Aware.
The couples, families, co-workers and friends in these photographs, whether HIV negative or positive, represent a powerful and poignant story that challenges the stigma that all too often accompanies HIV.
There are images of joy and resolve. Maria Majia from Miami, Fla. and her partner Lisa, pictured with “HIV +” and “HIV – “drawn on their cheeks, share a tender moment. Melissa, with her daughter in her arms, starts her day with “my morning pill” before heading up to the mountains of Virginia to “pick my angel’s first apples.” Justin and Phillip from Laurel, Md., beam broad smiles as they hold up an adoption approval certificate as a step toward adopting a LGBT teen.
“A Day with HIV, Positively Aware’s anti-stigma photo campaign, tears down the walls of shame and silence that surround HIV by showing that, despite HIV, life goes on,” said Jeff Berry, editor of Positively Aware. “By coming together on that one day, we build a virtual community of support and help raise awareness about HIV, not only in our own communities, but everywhere.”
The collection of photographs also chronicles how people with HIV navigate the challenges of their regimen of medicine and care. Michael Vatilla from Norton, Ohio holds a sheet of paper that tallies the hundreds of dollars worth of medications he takes each day and includes a plea to “make meds more accessible to everyone.” Viewers are drawn to the smiling face of three-year-old Phillip from Vacaville, Calif., only to notice him holding three medication dispensers in his small hand. A simple picture from Robert W. of Houston, Texas of a single pill next to a note asks us to “remember those who went before …”
Now in its third year, this year’s A Day with HIV campaign attracted a truly global response. The staff of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa stands side-by-side in brightly-colored traditional clothing during a cultural celebration. Jeferson Carvalho from Belo Horizonte, Brazil sits before an AIDS awareness campaign poster. Gary Brough, moderator of the U.K.’s largest online network for people with HIV, sports his “MyHIV.org.uk” t-shirt.
Some of the submitted photographs were from organizations such as the staff of the AIDS Project Los Angeles, the workers at the Walgreens on-site HIV-specialty pharmacy at Desert AIDS Project in Palms Springs, Calif., the MISTER team of NY, NY, or the researchers at the AIDS Clinical Trials Group in Boston, Mass., all of whom wanted to share the word about their work in supporting the HIV/AIDS community.
44 images were selected from more than 170 submitted to be included in the Nov.-Dec. issue of Positively Aware, a leading magazine devoted to HIV treatment and health. A full showing of many more of these photographs is now available online at the A Day with HIV website.
This year’s campaign also included the help of three judges who evaluated photographs and selected four different covers for the Nov.-Dec. issue of Positively Aware. Chuck Panozzo, bass player for Styx, Broadway performer and AIDS activist Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Diego Sanchez, senior legislative advisor to U.S. Representative Barney Frank, all contributed their time and talents to choose the final photographs for this campaign.
A standout photograph selected for one of the four featured covers shows a confident three-year-old David Walker from Iowa, born prematurely and HIV positive, sporting a striped shirt with a single word that might be proudly worn by everyone represented in this photo campaign. It simply says, “Hero.”
Positively Aware is a magazine devoted to HIV treatment and wellness. With a circulation of more than 100,000, it is published bi-monthly by Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN) in Chicago and is the only publication of its kind to be produced by a non-profit AIDS agency. Founded in 1987, TPAN is Chicago’s oldest peer-led AIDS service organization and specializes in treatment information, support services and prevention. For more information, please visit www.positivelyaware.com or www.tpan.com.