Positively Aware Rick Guasco
By Rick Guasco

Now in its eighth year, POSITIVELY AWARE’s anti-stigma campaign has become an annual opportunity to post pictures while sharing personal stories of resilience, perseverance, and support in the face of HIV.

The message behind A Day with HIV is simple—we’re all affected by HIV and the stigma sometimes associated with it. To make its point, the campaign captures a single 24-hour period—September 22, this year—by inviting people to photograph a moment of their day. Participants are asked to include the time and location along with a caption explaining what inspired them to take their picture. While uploaded to the campaign’s website, many other pictures were posted on social media with the hashtag #adaywithhiv.

For Melissa Baker, it was a mother’s love as her daughter walked to school. “Watching how the sun shines on her,” she wrote. “Just another day for me living with HIV, and her without it.”

In Pasadena, California, Carlos was excited to have his HIV meds delivered to him.

This year’s event was marked by the participation of a number of advocates and activists from various HIV service organizations and other groups, such as the HIV Vaccine Trials Network in Seattle; the Terrence Higgins Trust in England; Hope and Health in Orlando; and the Frannie Peabody Center in Portland, Maine. Evany Turk submitted a photo taken during a meeting of a women’s leadership training: “We are a group of women living with HIV, and allies, who are trying to improve the landscape for other women living with HIV in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.”

Ten other countries, in addition to the United States, were represented this year. An HIV counselor in Manila, capital of the Philippines, submitted his photo after a long day. An HIV long-term survivor from South Africa posted a photo with his dog. Felipe, a young man, posted on Instagram a picture of himself, facing the mountains in Brazil.

Some photos took a creative approach. Michael Buitron portrayed the group hug at the end of The LGBT Center of Long Beach’s newly-diagnosed group by photographing the circle formed by members’ feet. Damone Thomas offered a painterly picture of himself preparing for work as an HIV counselor. Some of the staff at Latinos Salud in Miami recreated Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper—with pizza.

“Humor has always gotten me through the hard parts of living with HIV,” said Josh Robbins, of Knoxville, Tennessee, who has shared his own life with HIV on his blog, I’m Still Josh, as he mugged for the camera.

But A Day with HIV isn’t always about smiles and happy people. Some of the photos submitted serve as reminders of the stigma some people face.

“I live in a small community in southwest Washington State, where the stigma is so heavy,” wrote Maggie in her caption. “I spend most of my days feeling isolated. I want to post something upbeat for A Day with HIV but for me, I feel loneliness and fear... In the small pockets of time when I get to connect with my positive community, I feel love and acceptance, but those times are so few and far between.”

But A Day with HIV is also a day for hope. As Maggie added, “I took this picture holding the hand of my granddaughter on our way to the park. I believe that she won’t know a world that has a stigma attached to HIV.”