Positively Aware Rick Guasco
By Rick Guasco

POSITIVELY AWARE’s anti-stigma campaign captures a single 24-hour period in the lives of people affected by HIV. Since 2010, A Day with HIV has used pictures to convey its message that everyone, regardless of their status, is affected by HIV. On September 22, nearly 200 photos were submitted to the campaign’s website and dozens more were posted on social media, accompanied by the hashtag #adaywithhiv.

In addition to people living with HIV, the anti-stigma campaign attracts participants who have friends or loved ones who are HIV-positive; activists, health care providers, and staff from AIDS service organizations also take part in A Day with HIV.

For the third consecutive year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign partnered with Positively Aware to promote A Day with HIV. Let’s Stop HIV Together also sponsors a traveling exhibit that features poster-size prints of photos taken in previous years. Also helping out this year, the AIDS Clinical Trials Group mentioned A Day with HIV in its internal newsletter, prompting a number of selfies and group photos from ACTG offices.

While the images are often eye-catching, the stories behind them are what often give the photos their power. “I took this picture in honor of my uncle,” said Tyrell Manning of Saint Louis, Missouri, his uncle’s portrait appearing in the background of his photo. “He lost his life to AIDS-related complications, and every day I draw my strength and passion from him.”

“My best friend, my brother, died of HIV—mere months before the first drugs which have helped saved the lives of so many others,” said Stanley Rutledge, of Chicago. “All I have left of Paul is this lamp of his.”

The photo submitted by the Heartland Men’s Chorus (HMC) in Kansas City recalled the early days of the epidemic, before new medications marked a turning point. “Now in its 30th season, many of HMC’s early performances were at funerals for friends and members who died of AIDS-related diseases. Today, over 30 of the 169 chorus members are HIV-positive.”

Sharing her story of life with HIV, Jennifer Jako of Portland, Oregon, wrote, “Being a mother to a healthy daughter is a gift I did not expect when I became infected at age 18, 25 years ago. In fact, I was told I shouldn’t expect to reach my 25th birthday. My daughter was born free of HIV, thanks to HIV medications I took during pregnancy. She and I have so much fun together!”

It was Zakk Marquez, of Los Angeles, who summed up A Day with HIV: “Whether positive or negative, straight, gay, bi, or otherwise identified, every day is always a day with HIV, a day of shared humanity.”

To view photos uploaded to the campaign’s online gallery, go to adaywithhiv.com. Pictures will be posted throughout the year on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #adaywithhiv. For information about the traveling exhibit, or to host the exhibit, email mailto:photo@adaywithhiv.com.