Everyday pictures, extraordinary lives

It seemed like any other day, but Thursday, September 22 was A Day with HIV, and dozens
of pictures were being posted on social media, accompanied by the hashtag #adaywithhiv.

POSITIVELY AWARE’s anti-stigma campaign portrays a single 24-hour period in the lives of people affected by HIV. Participants are encouraged to capture a moment of their day, and include a caption telling what inspired them to snap that picture. Now in its seventh year, the message of A Day with HIV is that, regardless of HIV status, stigma affects everyone.

“I face you in adversity,” said Robert Dunn, as if addressing the virus. “I stand firm, I am not afraid. I am me, I am not afraid!”

Family was a motivating factor among many of those who shared their story. “HIV doesn’t stop me. It motivates me to live for my daughter,” said Felisha Moore, posting a picture with her child.

“It's been a hard road, but someday I will feel no more pain or illness,” admitted Tammy, who endures seven-hour immunogammagobulin transfusions every three weeks to bolster her immune system. “I kinda can't wait for that day, but then when I look at my mom, my sisters, and all my nieces and nephews, it keeps me fighting.”

Wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the word “GUNCLE” in all caps, Cody L. Hall posed in a New York City subway station. “I have two little guys who will call me ‘Guncle Cody’ when they can finally speak. I will not let HIV stigma define me and I will not let those little guys grow up into a world that perpetuates stigma.”

Underscoring the campaign’s message that stigma can affect anyone, Peter Farmi related the stigma he faces from friends because he is on PrEP to protect himself from HIV.

For some, HIV is not the only challenge they confront. “I beat anal cancer, fought the demons of alcohol and drugs,” Daniel Garza said. Erick Santiago shared his experience, “I have been seven months sober—no drinking or anything. It’s always a challenge, but we are all stronger than we believe!”

Various HIV/AIDS organizations also participated. Among them were the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, APLA (formerly AIDS Project Los Angeles), Frannie Peabody Center, and the Los Angeles Women’s PrEP Network. Researchers at the Microbicide Trials Network at the University of Pittsburgh and the AIDS Clinical Trials Group in Cambridge, Massachusetts
took part as well.

From England, activist David Rowlands demonstrated his active lifestyle as he climbed a tree. Andrew Espinosa took a touristy snapshot from Sofia, Bulgaria, where he was attending a European AIDS treatment conference.

One of the most moving posts, however, was a video posted by Generation Ubuntu, a South African AIDS organization that cares for HIV-positive children. The video shows children singing their daily “adherence chant,” recited every morning as they take their HIV meds.

Among the number of HIV long-term survivors who took part in A Day with HIV was Hank Trout, a 27-year long-term survivor who writes for A&U magazine, the HIV/AIDS magazine that focuses on culture and the arts. “I have taken it upon myself to ensure that the history of the continuing AIDS crisis is told accurately and passionately,” Trout wrote.

Ralph Thurlow and David Spiher shared a personal moment: “Ralph's home healthcare worker wasn't able to show up or call in time to arrange other plans, so Ralph is at my office as I do my development job.” The couple was featured in Last Men Standing, the documentary film based upon the San Francisco Chronicle’s in-depth examination of long-term survivors and the issues they face.

The November+December issues features a selection of the some 200 photos taken on September 22 for A Day with HIV.

View a gallery of photos taken on A Day with HIV; go to adaywithhiv.com. Pictures will be posted throughout the year on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with the hashtag #adaywithhiv. A traveling exhibit of pictures taken in previous years is co-sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information about PA’s anti-stigma campaign, email photo@adaywithhiv.com.