24 hours in the lives of people living with HIV

The equinox only happens twice a year. Although the dates change from year to year because of the earth’s orbit, it is the time when day and night are of equal length and signifies a changing of the seasons. In some ancient cultures, the equinox also symbolized a change of thinking. So, on Tuesday, September 22, 2020, the day of the autumnal equinox, what better day for Positively Aware’s annual anti-stigma campaign?

A Day with HIV portrays 24 hours in the lives of people affected by HIV—people take a photograph of their day and post it to their social media. More than 200 pictures from across the U.S. and representing 11 countries were posted, accompanied by the hashtag #adaywithhiv. But the real impact came from the personal experiences behind those images.

“HIV made me focus on all aspects of my health. It taught me the importance of being present, to focus on my goals and to keep moving,” said Kalvin as he took a break from his 6 a.m. workout in Olathe, Kansas.

“Focused on overcoming an unhealthy past—proud to be positive, excited to share my story, optimistic about my future,” posted Matt Taylor from Philadelphia.

“In the past couple weeks and even months, I’ve been in and out of a dark space, yet still holding on to my light,” said Richard Hutchinson, Jr., another Philadelphian. “I’ve been inspired by my struggles. I work every day to make better things happen in my life for those around me. At the end of the day, I’m an amazing human being, growing, learning, loving, creating.”

But for many, a day with HIV is like any other day.

“This morning is like every other morning,” said Rachel Feder, from Michigan. “My day starts at 7:30 a.m. I’m a social worker, and I continue to work remotely, so I was checking my email and my work phone before I wake my daughter up for virtual 6th grade at 8 a.m. Life doesn’t stop.”

“Getting my son ready for bed,” said Aaron Laxton from Saint Peters, Missouri. “Thanks to knowledge and medications, I am healthy and able to keep up with an energetic toddler.”

Because HIV stigma can affect anyone, regardless of their status, a few allies also shared their support. “Today, I’m supporting a great friend of mine, Marissa Gonzalez, in raising awareness of HIV,” posted Brittany Latresha Johnson from Fort Myers, Florida.

A number of people take part in A Day with HIV year after year. Through the succession of images, you can witness their life’s journey unfolding.

A year ago, A Day with HIV coincided with the birthday of long-time participant T.J. Elston, who married his partner James the same day. The picture they took on the first anniversary is one of the three versions of this issue’s foldout cover.

One of the most poignant images shared last year was a picture taken by Debbie Sergi-Laws with her father, who was in hospice care. Her photo this year captured a moment of remembrance and grief.

“Last year my photo was sharing my dad’s hospice bed,” she posted. “Spending the last month of his life with him I will always cherish. This year the challenges have been great. Dad, you shine in my heart just from further away. I love and miss you. Staying strong.”

For some, A Day with HIV is an opportunity to live by example. “Tell me and I forget; teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn,” said Zeke from San Antonio, Texas. “One person's revolutionary act against HIV stigma is a monumental act of kindness that is heard around the world!”

From Miami, Sannita F. Vaughn posted, “Love your life with grace.”

Search for the hashtag #adaywithhiv on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In addition to the pictures that appear on the next seven pages of this issue, an online gallery is on display at adaywithhiv.com.