1:04 PM: Amersfoort, The Netherlands
Eliane Becks Nininahazwe: Picking up my medication at the pharmacy. A Day with HIV reminds me how lucky I am to have access to the treatment. It also reminds me how important is to be visible if we want to end HIV stigma.
2:23 PM: Washington, D.C.
Anthony Adero Olweny (right): Living with HIV has opened new opportunities and provided great lived experiences to be ourselves. I learn to be myself and love more. I appreciate life more and enjoy present moment positively. Jim and I reflect on what it means to be self advocates and also to be part of a thriving community of people living with HIV.
4:15 PM: New York, New York
Lilli Gonzalez: At my clinic at New York Presbyterian, getting my blood work done to keep up with my numbers and remain undetectable.
7:30 PM: Sacramento, California
Arturo C. Jackson III: Celebrating love and 14 poz years together today! 39-year poz survivor.
What made the autumnal equinox on Monday, September 23, different was that it was A Day with HIV. The aim of POSITIVELY AWARE’s annual campaign is to capture in pictures 24 hours in the lives of people affected by HIV and its associated stigma.
Accompanied by the hashtag #adaywithhiv, hundreds of pictures from across the U.S. and 10 other countries were posted to social media. But the real impact often came from the personal stories behind those images.
“My diagnosis 35 years ago has enabled me to find my calling, leading, passion, the fire in my belly, which is education,” posted Mark Grantham in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “I am grateful beyond words to say that I am not only surviving, I am thriving. Thirty-five years ago, I truly believed that my life was over; today, it’s only beginning. As Elaine Stritch sang in Follies, ‘I’m still here.’ ”
From Portland, Oregon, Carol’s caption was poignant and succinct: “Even grandmas can have HIV.”
The day coincided with personal events and milestones. “Today is also my mother’s 64th birthday!” posted Adam from Beaumont, Texas. “Living another day with my diagnosis means having another day to be with her, and all my loved ones.” Lilli Gonzalez snapped photos during her clinic visit at New York Presbyterian: “Getting my blood work done to keep up with my numbers and remain undetectable.”
“Thanks to great medications I am able to be a father to an eight-month-old who is very active,” posted Aaron Laxton from Saint Louis, Missouri. “HIV is the least interesting thing about my life.”
Activist Bruce Richman posted a picture on his way to the airport to go to Toronto to speak about U=U. “I won’t stop until everyone knows!” he posted. Giulio Maria Corbelli took a picture while waiting at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport to attend a meeting in Amsterdam of the European Medicines Agency. “This is an opportunity for people’s voices to be heard by regulatory authorities,” he said.
“If you are diagnosed with HIV don’t be afraid, because this is not the ending of your life, but a beginning of new phase to be a better person,” said Salina Shaari, of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Other pictures posted reflected the new reality that people living with HIV are often dealing with other conditions. “As a long-term HIV survivor of 23 years, at 47, I am now living with HIV and cancer,” said Jasán Maurice Ward, of Schenectady, New York. “I was diagnosed with cancer in June, and am currently in recovery from chemotherapy and radiation. Through it all, I still wake up feeling ready to fly, rising higher each day, in order to keep fighting, inspiring other people, and living my best life!”
“I’ve always kept my beard trimmed for work, but a recent Type 2 diabetes diagnosis has left my face sunken,” posted Robert Riester in Denver. “I have to embrace myself and rethink how I see myself.”
Near the end of the day, Tami Haught of Nashua, Iowa summed up her experience: “The last five years, I have been doing what I call ‘reclaiming miles,’ events I thought I would not be able to experience after my diagnosis. I didn't think I would live long enough to see my son graduate from high school. And yet here I am today, rocking my eight-month-old grandson to sleep.”
In addition to the images posted on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, dozens of pictures were uploaded to the campaign’s online gallery: adaywithhiv.com.