A Day with HIV, Positively Aware’s anti-stigma campaign, depicts a single 24-hour period in the lives of people affected by HIV. On Wednesday, September 22, 2021, people—regardless of their HIV status—captured a moment of their day, posting the picture with a caption to their social media, accompanied by the hashtag #adaywithhiv. About 250 pictures were posted. It was an opportunity for people to share their stories. But for some, sharing their photo was only the beginning.
“I had two people message me to thank me for just being me,” said Thom Bland, a long-term survivor of HIV. “One had held his status secret for 16 years and needed release, the other was 10 years living with HIV and was happy to know a friend he could reach out to. This Day is bigger than the sum of our parts.”
“My sister wasn’t aware of how many meds I take each day and she asked me a lot of questions,” said Rose McCloud. “I didn’t share my status with anyone in my family beyond my children until two years ago, although I have been positive for 28 years and counting. I had heard enough negative and absolutely horrible jokes about people living with HIV from family members over the years to know that I should keep it to myself. But the picture I posted of my meds opened the door for open honest conversation with a few family members.”
Sascha Rex was only diagnosed with HIV last year. “Taking part in A Day with HIV was one of my best decisions,” he said. “I got surprising messages and warmhearted reactions. Friends and colleagues reading my post were supporting my fight against stigma of people living with HIV, and were proud of how openly I handle my status being HIV-positive.”
The annual campaign started in 2010. A number of HIV advocates regularly take part, while others have taken pictures, documenting their journey over the years.
“I love seeing all the people living with HIV in their daily lives, living largely ‘normal’ lives,” said transgender HIV activist Katie Willingham. “If I had seen something like this when I was diagnosed, I wouldn’t have spent so many years waiting to die. I would have seen hope that life goes on, even while living with HIV. So, I turn in my picture every year for this campaign in hopes of giving others hope, because this is a campaign of hope.”
“I felt an overwhelming sense of community, both from the other posters and from my family and friends on Facebook and Instagram,” said Harry C.S. Wingfield, a long-term survivor.
“I loved seeing so many people celebrating life,“ said Anthony Johnson. “It was wonderful seeing people out and proud of who they are. It was great seeing some who were originally scared to share their stories kick shame and stigma to the curb. It was like they finally freed themselves of their chains.”
“It’s a really sweet and simple way to pause for a few minutes and share with others what you’re doing or feeling as a person living with this shared commonality,” said Tranisha Darlene Arzah. “I really appreciate it, and to witness what living with HIV looks like on that day for this unique community is very inspiring, and builds a sense of gratefulness that we all get to share these moments together. Thank you!”
An online gallery is on display at adaywithhiv.com.