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Online photo essay documents "A Day With HIV" globally

CHICAGO - A month ago, images of a life with HIV came into focus on a single day.

On Sept. 21, 2012, more than 170 people from around the world took a photograph that, taken together, tells the collective story of the trials and triumphs of living with HIV.

A record of that day is now captured in an online photo essay, “A Day With HIV” released Wednesday, and soon to be published in the next issue of Positively Aware.

The couples, families, co-workers and friends in these photographs, whether HIV negative or positive, represent a powerful and poignant story that challenges the stigma that all too often accompanies HIV.

There are images of joy and resolve.

* Maria Majia from Miami, Fla. and her partner Lisa, pictured with "HIV +" and "HIV -" drawn on their cheeks, share a tender moment.

* Melissa, with her daughter in her arms, starts her day with "my morning pill" before heading up to the mountains of Virginia to "pick my angel's first apples."

* Justin and Phillip from Laurel, Md., beam broad smiles as they hold up an adoption approval certificate as a step toward adopting a LGBT teen.

"‘A Day With HIV,’ Positively Aware's anti-stigma photo campaign, tears down the walls of shame and silence that surround HIV by showing that, despite HIV, life goes on," said Jeff Berry, editor of Positively Aware. "By coming together on that one day, we build a virtual community of support and help raise awareness about HIV, not only in our own communities, but everywhere."

The collection of photographs also chronicles how people with HIV navigate the challenges of their regimen of medicine and care.

* Michael Vatilla from Norton, Ohio holds a sheet of paper that tallies the hundreds of dollars worth of medications he takes each day and includes a plea to "make meds more accessible to everyone."

* Viewers are drawn to the smiling face of 3-year-old Phillip from Vacaville, Calif., only to notice him holding three medication dispensers in his small hand.

* A simple picture from Robert W. of Houston, Texas of a single pill next to a note asks us to "remember those who went before."

Now in its third year, this year's “A Day With HIV” campaign attracted a truly global response. The staff of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation in Cape Town,South Africa stands side-by-side in brightly-colored traditional clothing during a cultural celebration. Jeferson Carvalho from Belo Horizonte, Brazil sits before an AIDS awareness campaign poster. Gary Brough, moderator of the U.K.'s largest online network for people with HIV, sports his MyHIV.org.uk" T-shirt.

Some of the submitted photographs were from organizations such as the staff of the AIDS Project Los Angeles, the workers at the Walgreens on-site HIV-specialty pharmacy at Desert AIDS Project in Palms Springs, Calif., the MISTER team of NY, NY, or the researchers at the AIDS Clinical Trials Group in Boston, Mass., all of whom wanted to share the word about their work in supporting the HIV/AIDS community.

Forty-four images were selected from more than 170 submitted to be included in the Nov.-Dec. issue of Positively Aware, a leading magazine devoted to HIV treatment and health. A full showing of many more of these photographs is now available online at the “A Day With HIV” website.

This year's campaign also included the help of three judges who evaluated photographs and selected four different covers for the Nov.-Dec. issue of Positively Aware. Chuck Panozzo, bass player for Styx, Broadway performer and AIDS activist Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Diego Sanchez, senior legislative advisor to U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, all contributed their time and talents to choose the final photographs for this campaign.

A standout photograph selected for one of the four featured covers shows a confident 3-year-old David Walker from Iowa, born prematurely and HIV-positive, sporting a striped shirt with a single word that might be proudly worn by everyone represented in this photo campaign. It simply says, "Hero."

Photo captions

Front cover: David Duran, taken at 10:15 am: San Francisco, California. David Duran practices his daddy skills with his best friend’s son at the beach. “Today is just like any other day. I’m living my life and enjoying spending time with my loved ones. One day soon, I hope to have a child, and raise him or her in a world without HIV or the stigma that surrounds it.”

Above right: Melissa Baker, taken at 11 am: Virginia. Melissa: “Pop my morning Isentress (raltegravir) and head up to the mountains to pick my angel’s first apples. Just another day with HIV.”

Top left: Ji Wallace, taken at 2:45 pm: Queenstown, New Zealand. Australian Olympic medalist Ji Wallace: “This photo was taken during some down time while we are on a work trip. I am with my boyfriend, Shaun Baldwin. Queenstown is known as the adrenaline capital of the southern hemisphere so we decided to go up the mountain on the gondolas for mountain luging. I won. In the picture, I am on the left and I am positive. We live in a loving, happy, and healthy serodiscordant relationship.”

Middle left: Gustavo Gimenez, taken at 2:30 pm: New York City. Gustavo Gimenez: “I work in an allergy lab. At today’s meeting, we went over a case presentation of a patient with a complicated drug allergy. Unfortunately, his treatment options were further complicated because he had vertically transmitted HIV. I wanted to show in this picture that this anonymous case became personal, and that it struck a nerve. While I may never know who this patient is, I would like to wish him the best and show that I care.”

Bottom left: Desmond Tutu AIDS Foundation, taken at 3:30 pm: Cape Town, South Africa. The staff of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, who are working hard on a microbicide trial, take time to celebrate cultural diversity at an event honoring the volunteers who take part in clinical trials.