Since starting the raTrust formally last year I have come to realise that people often don’t see HIV as having a face. This is often because they have not had a friend, family member or loved one affected by the virus. They can’t imagine how that diagnosis can so radically change the life of someone who they know, how it can impact on every area of their life and how it can leave them open to life-threatening infections, stigma or even physical violence.
When I saw Will’s stunning set of photographs The Face of HIV, I knew we were on the same page. Will had taken the photos with the intention of exploring how an HIV-positive diagnosis can lead to people being shunned, isolated or stigmatised. But what he came up with was a wonderful collection of images that showed the humanity of HIV-positive people. Here were a collection of people as diverse as any you may find in your family, your workplace or your street. There were straight people, LGBT people, black people, white people, young and old.
Looking behind Will’s beautiful black and white images of those who are HIV+, yet more humanity starts to emerge, as well as the backstories of discrimination, turmoil and health problems that these people have suffered. There is Andy, who lost his job due to the stigma associated with HIV, there is Philip, who has been living with HIV for 30 years and there is Jay, a Londoner who has only just received his positive diagnosis.
These stories are far from atypical, but they are vital as a reminder of how HIV can impact individuals. As HIV treatments have become more effective we seem only too willing to forget about the physical and mental toll that a positive diagnosis can take. At the raTrust we are out working with HIV-positive people every day, hearing their stories and helping them to fight stigma, get the right medical care and maintain their health.
Will’s photographs capture the struggle, the worry and the dignity we see from all those we know with HIV. This is why we will be collaborating with him to create exhibitions of his work in London and Bournemouth this December. You can find out the exact details by keeping an eye on our blog, by signing up for our Facebook page or following us on Twitter.
Please spread the word via social media or by email to people you know who may be interested in being a part of this outstanding project.
Dominika Rejmer – Director and founder, The raTrust.