I recently took part in an HIV anti-stigma campaign. HIV activist and Project Runway alum Jack Mackenroth teamed with Connecticut-based World Health Clinicians and photographer Thomas Evans for the new social media campaign, HIV Equal:
The HIV Equal photo campaign fights the stigma associated with HIV by illustrating that everyone is equally valuable regardless of HIV status. Participants who sign up to take a photo will also take an HIV test with an on-hand health professional as part of a greater effort to help end the fear around HIV testing. The test is confidential and involves a quick mouth swab with results in 20 minutes. If an individual does test positive the staff is prepared with the necessary counseling and linkage to care.
Individuals are photographed with a unique “HIV=” logo, which strategically appears on their body. As a play on the word “status,” a unique caption will read ‘STATUS:_______,’ and every model picks a word that exemplifies one aspect of their personality. This alludes to the fact that who we are as people is much more important than an HIV status.
“Our goal is to photograph people from all walks of life who support ending HIV stigma, regardless of their personal HIV status. We launched the campaign with celebrities, politicians, artists and many recognizable faces in order to draw attention to our mission, but we plan to include everyone since HIV affects us all,” explained Mackenroth, who has lived with HIV for over 20 years. “HIV Equal goes a step further to include testing so that everyone photographed knows their status. We need to take care of ourselves and each other, as well as to reignite the global conversation about HIV to stop the spread of misinformation, fear and judgment.”