This past June, the U.S. marked the 30th anniversary of the first reported cases of AIDS in the nation. In the U.S., it is estimate that 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV today and 1 out of 5 of them don't know it. Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 600,000 people have died from AIDS. Two projects, one national and one Austin-focused, are documenting those people affected by HIV/AIDS to help put a human face to the statistics and reduce the stigma often associated with the disease.
In late September, more than 120 people across America captured a moment of their day to show the world the challenges and resolve of living with HIV. The poignant images and powerful stories of that day, Wednesday, September 21, are now captured in a photo essay, "A Day with HIV in America," published by Positively Aware.
The individuals, couples, families, and groups in these photographs, whether HIV negative or positive, represent a collective portrait of what it means to live with or care for someone with HIV. "The goal of this online exhibition is to help remove the stigma of HIV by shining a light on everyday people coping with the virus, and to advance a community of understanding, care and support," said Jeff Berry, editor of Positively Aware.
Some of the photographs share very private moments in a day of living with HIV. Donna Dane, an HIV-positive mom from Lee's Summit, MO, telling her young son goodnight. Ron Hudson from Durham, NC, HIV-positive for more than 26 years, is giving himself an insulin shot to battle the diabetes he acquired while taking antiretroviral drugs. Jonathan Reitan, HIV-positive for five years, fatigued from his daily course of medications is pictured resting in the arms of his partner, Jonathon Broadwater who is HIV-negative.
Many individuals chose this photo essay as a way to say, "Please look at me, I have something important to share." Justin B. Terry-Smith of Washington, DC, a self-described "cyber HIV activist" is holding a children's book he authored entitled, "I Have a Secret." The Rev. Andrena Ingram from Philadelphia, PA, attending a church conference in Orlando, FL submitted a striking black and white photograph, except for the color of her bright red "HIV Positive" T-shirt, as she stands among her ministerial peers. Kenneth from Indiana, holding his pill box with his daily regimen of medication shared, "This is the first time I have ever submitted a picture of myself acknowledging to the world that I live with HIV."
"As I look at these photographs, I'm taken by both the common, day-to-day lives of everyone; people at home, with their families, at work," said Chuck Panozzo, the bassist of the band Styx and himself HIV-positive. "Yet there's a great sense of courage and strength overlying all these images." Panozzo is an active supporter of the "A Day with HIV in America" project, having submitted a photograph of himself for last year's essay.
Some of the submitted photographs were of groups of people, like the staff on the steps of the Wright House Wellness Center in Austin, TX (photo above), or members of the Black Treatment Advocates Network in Los Angeles, CA. These and other groups wanted to share the word about their work in supporting the HIV/AIDS community.
The subjects of the photographs range from the notable, including Illinois State Representative Greg Harris, one of only two state legislators in the U.S. who is openly HIV positive, to people such as Velietta Dickens Rogers who led a very sheltered life because of her HIV. Ms. Rogers, pictured painting at an easel, described how the Stewpot Art Program in Dallas, TX, "brought me out of the seclusion of my home where I've been for 18 years (after being diagnosed with HIV)."
Thirty-one images were selected from more than 160 submitted to be included in the November-December issue of Positively Aware, a leading magazine devoted to HIV treatment. A full showing of many more of these photographs is now available online at the "A Day with HIV in America" website at www.adaywithhivinamerica.com.
Perhaps the image that sums up many of the sentiments expressed by all the participants is one from a woman in Bronx, NY. The image obscures her full face and words on an ad placard above her head are cropped to say, "Learn ... Acting." "I love that phrase," she says. "Having HIV and not being public about it sometimes feels like I am acting. Today I hope, by being a powerful example, I can erode the misconceptions and dismantle the stigma ... and say this is a day with HIV in America."
Closer to home, Austin-based documentary photographer Jo Ann Santangelo, in collaboration with AIDS Services of Austin, prepares to open a multimedia portrait project that hopes to puts a human face to the disease while promoting HIV and AIDS awareness and work to reduce stigma. Austin Faces AIDS: Portraits of People Living with HIV and AIDS will be on display in the Falcon 5 trailer at 1000 E. 5th Street, starting on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2011 and run through January 2, 2012. The exhibit is free and open to the public Mondays through Friday from 10 AM - 4 PM.
There will be an opening reception across the street from the exhibit at Progress Coffee at 500 San Marcos Street on Friday, December 2, 2011 from 6-7:30 PM. The reception is free but an RSVP is requested.
Santangelo's other projects include Walking the Block, a series of black and white photographs documenting the LGBT community of New York City’s Christopher Street located in New York's West Village which was at the B. Hollyman Gallery in West Austin this past June andProud To Serve another multimedia portrait project that put a face to LGBT servicemembers that were impacted by "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Creative Director & Founder, therepubliq.com
Director, Marketing/Promotions & Co-Founder, The OUTlander Project
Producer, OutCast Austin
Chase is the founder and Creative Director of therepubliq.com and co-founder and Director, Marketing & Promotions of The OUTlander Project. He is also a producer and engineer for OutCast Austin, an award-winning LGBT weekly radio program on KOOP 91.7 FM in Austin. In 2011, he was named the Critics Pick for 'Most Gaybiquitous' in the Austin Chronicle's Best of Austin.
Additionally, Chase runs PlanetChase, LLC, a consulting firm providing a variety of business development services including web development, marketing, branding, technology to small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs; as well as meeting planning services for the financial services industry.
On his spare time, Chase has volunteered with local organizations including AIDS Services of Austin, the Octopus Club, the Austin Gay Basketball League and Volleyball Austin. In 2007, he was appointed by then-Austin Mayor Will Wynn to serve on the Austin Area Comprehensive HIV Planning Council where he served as the chairperson of the Community Access & Nominations committee.