Nationwide photo essay aims to rid stigma surrounding HIV

By shades Magazine staff

What, or who, is the face of HIV?

Positively Aware magazine wants the world to realize something: that face could belong to anyone.

On Sept. 21, the online publication devoted to HIV treatment and wellness is sponsoring “A Day with HIV in America,” a collaborative photo essay to illustrate a day in the life with HIV. People across the country – both HIV-positive and negative, care providers, lawmakers, advocates, families and friends – are encourage to take a snapshot of a moment from their everyday life.

Using a digital camera or cell phone, the photos should capture a scene: Getting ready for work. Hanging out with friends. Spending a quiet moment alone. Caring for someone with HIV. The idea is to come up with the person’s own response to the question, “What does it mean to live with HIV?”

Organizers of the photo essay say they hope to present a portrait of the world and put a face on HIV/AIDS in the U.S. in an effort to de-stigmatize life with HIV. Selected photos will appear in a special section of the November/December issue of Positively Aware.

Celebrating its inaugural year, the project came about in editorial team discussions regarding coverage for World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.

“The goal of the one-day event is to bring people together by fostering a sense of community and sharing with others what life with HIV means to them,” Positively Aware Editor Jeff Berry said. “Whether we live with HIV, or care for someone with HIV, it touches all of us. And there is still so much misinformation out there and stigma that is associated with the virus, which in turn prevents people from getting tested or getting into care.

“Our goal is to hopefully remove those barriers to accessing care and treatment by taking away the stigma that so often goes along with it.”

Since the announcement of the project about a week ago, response as been positive Berry said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, in 2008, the estimated number of diagnoses of HIV infection (in the 37 states with confidential name-based HIV infection reporting) include 21,289 who are black/African American; 11,778 who are white; 7,121 who are Hispanic/Latino/a; 444 Asian; 220 American Indian/Alaska Native;  and 33 Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander.

For more information on “A Day with HIV in America” and submission details, visit www.adaywithhivinamerica.com.

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