Health

Photo Campaign Documents A Day In The Life Of HIV-Positive People

CREDIT: Shutterstock

What’s a day in the life of an HIV-positive person like? That’s the simple question at the heart of “A Day With HIV,” an annual campaign that encourages people to submit photos of themselves as a method of raising awareness about the virus. Tuesday marks the fifth annual installment of the photo campaign.

Decades after Americans first became aware of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, some people still have misconceptions about how exactly the virus is spread, and may harbor stereotypes about the kinds of people who become infected. And although about 1.1 million people in U.S. are living with HIV, research has shown that the persistent stigma surrounding the disease can dissuade them from seeking medical treatment.

So, in order to tackle those larger cultural issues, Positively Aware magazine — an HIV treatment journal — started encouraging people around the country to submit photos and short descriptions of their life with the disease. HIV-negative allies are also invited to join the campaign in solidarity. “Take your best shot against stigma,” the campaign website’s encourages.

2013 submissions to the "A Day With HIV" campaign

2013 submissions to the “A Day With HIV” campaign

CREDIT: A Day With HIV

Last September, hundreds of entries poured in. “I don’t carry HIV around like a burden; instead, I use my HIV to empower myself to make healthier choices in all areas of my life,” one participant wrote along with his photo submission last year. “I embrace each day with optimism and hope. I don’t even think about being HIV-positive, it doesn’t define who I am,” another submitted. “A day with HIV can be a day filled with with love,” a third participant wrote to accompany a photo of himself and his romantic partner.

“These people are possibly facing terrible adversity, depending what they’re up against — whether it’s their health, or their job, or their family — but there’s a real sense of hope that you see in all these pictures that really is so powerful,” Jeff Berry, the editor of Positively Aware, told ThinkProgress.

Participants are also currently tweeting about their daily lives under the hashtag #ADayWithHIV.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 15 percent of HIV-positive Americans don’t know they have the virus. That number rises dramatically among young Americans between 16 and 24 years old, 60 percent of whom are unaware of their status. Berry ultimately hopes “A Day With HIV” will encourage more people to get tested and connected with the medical resources they need.

This year’s participants have until September 12th to add their photos to the website, and their entries have the potential to be seen by Americans all over the country. Some of them will be selected as cover photos for the Positively Aware magazine. Others will be used as part of a traveling art exhibition showcasing images of people with HIV. And the CDC plans to partner with “A Day With HIV” to work on an anti-stigma campaign on a larger scale.

“I’m not ashamed of my status,” Nancy Duncan, an HIV-positive peer educator for Planned Parenthood who has submitted her photo for the campaign several years in a row, told ThinkProgress in an interview. “And I admire other people who are willing to put their face out there. People need to see there are many faces to HIV/AIDS, people from all walks of life.”

The caption on the photo that Duncan submitted on Tuesday says she’s “thriving well on a journey with much gratitude, love and blessings.”