Among friends
Positively Aware Rick Guasco
Rick Guasco

Sharing a meal can be such a communal experience. A gathering of friends, acquaintances, or even strangers who come together for one purpose. We find comfort and kinship in each other. That was the idea behind the cover of this year's HIV Drug Guide. The eight people who took part in the shoot found common ground and quickly took to each other, sharing their life stories.

“After my partner makes breakfast, I eat and take my HIV medication,” said Mike Winkfield, who has been living with HIV for 18 years.

“I take my HIV meds daily and am undetectable,” says Winkfield’s partner, 68-year-old Roy Ferguson, who has been living with HIV for 23 years. “After being down-sized out of my job at 55, I turned to become an HIV/AIDS advocate. I work with fellow military veterans who are HIV-positive, coordinating a self-help/education group at Hines VA hospital.”

“When I was diagnosed 10 years ago, I was scared that I would never be normal,” said Chad T. Hendry. “Today I know better. Taking my pill every night consistently gives me the assurance that I am undetectable, and that I can’t transmit to my partner. I am not bound or held back by fear of transmitting to someone I care about. That is a huge freedom.”

Anthony and Quintin are a magnetic couple; Anthony is on PrEP and Quintin has been living with HIV for three years.

“HIV required me to get in front of my overall health,” Quintin said. “Through organizations, peer navigators, and health professionals I was able to address my barriers to health self-sufficiency in two years. Taking charge of my health and wellness and taking my HIV medication helped me to get to undetectable. Learning to read my own labs and learning how to build trust with my health care providers gave me the peace of mind to keep striving. Making sure my partner remains negative also takes priority as part of my journey of living with HIV.”

“I have been on PrEP since 2014, and I wholeheartedly believe that if taken correctly, it can be an effective tool for addressing HIV,” Anthony said. “PrEP has played an important role in my relationship and provided me the opportunity to really be in love with someone living with HIV. It has helped me to navigate what being in a magnetic relationship looks like not only for myself but my community as well.”

“Since I was diagnosed in 2016 with a T cell count of 10, I have been adherent with my HIV medication, said Danielle Kruse. “I have my own business, and am constantly on the move. But regardless of my day or night, my HIV med is always my nightcap. My T cells are now over 500, my business is growing, and I feel good.”

“It has become second nature to take my meds,” said Frankie Franklin-Fox, who acquired HIV through a blood transfusion 39 years ago. “After all these years, starting with AZT in 1995, it has become quite simple. I set the alarm on my phone so that I’m on time, and my meds are about 12 hours apart. Currently, the only side effect I experience is severe hair loss. But it’s only hair! My viral load was 155,000, and I am now undetectable!”

“I was diagnosed with AIDS 30 years ago,” said Chancelor (“Chance”) Cunningham. My doctor had me on 15 pills a day. Today, I'm undetectable and take only one pill a day.”

Nookies, a neighborhood restaurant near TPAN (the non-profit HIV/AIDS services organization that publishes Positively Aware), generously served as the location for the photo shoot. It’s where I often meet a friend for Sunday breakfast and take my HIV medication. As creative director, I was inspired by this for the cover, which was photographed by John Gress and styled by Wyll Knight.