HIV Equal, a campaign to promote HIV status tests and ending stigma against HIV positive people, landed in Los Angeles recently to photograph local folks who share its goals.
Those photographed included celebrities such as Olympic diver Greg Louganis and drag performer Jackie Beat, local politicians such as West Hollywood City Councilmembers John D’Amico and John Duran, and a host of other people from all walks of life. The message is that while some people may be HIV positive, and some people may be HIV negative, we all have an HIV status. Thus we all are HIV Equal.
HIV Equal, which launched in October, is sponsored by World Health Clinicians. “We know that stigma is a huge hurdle we need to overcome in order to get people tested for HIV and to dramatically decrease transmission rates,” said WHC Executive Director Scott Gretz. “We look forward to taking HIV Equal all over the country and reigniting the national conversation about HIV. The epidemic is NOT over.”
According to the latest statistical data reported by the County of Los Angeles in its 2012 Annual HIV Surveillance Report, there were more than 2,000 new diagnoses of HIV infection in 2010, with a total of 45,474 persons currently living with HIV as of Dec. 31, 2012. Men accounted for 1,816 (88%) of such cases, and the highest number of infections (60%) occurred among those between the ages of 20-39.
Those photographed were invited to take an HIV test with an on-hand health professional as part of an effort to help end the fear around HIV testing. The test is confidential and involved a quick mouth swab with results in 20 minutes. In the event that an individual tested positive, the staff was prepared with the necessary counseling and linkage to care.
On the pages that follow, WEHOville offers up a sampling of local people photographed by Thomas Evans with the help of Jack Mackenroth, founders of the HIV Equal initiative. More information about HIV Equal is available on its Facebook and Twitter pages.