On September 21, 2011 people across the US living with HIV took a moment out of their day to take a photo of their everyday lives for the project A Day With HIV in America. The images from that day, which was World AIDS Day, are now in a recently released photo essay by the magazine Positively Aware.
Chuck Panozzo, the legendary and openly gay guitarist from Styx, who himself marked his 20th year living with HIV, has been actively involved in the project for the past two years. “It’s a statement of who we are,” says Panozzo. “We’re your brothers, your sisters, and friends. You might not think you know anyone with aids, but chances are you do.”
Now an advocate for AIDS research, Panozzo, 63, has a story like many closeted people of his generation. Worried about reactions not only from his family and band mates, but also fans across the globe, he struggled not only with coming to terms with his sexuality but also having to announce that he had become HIV positive. “We didn’t have any kind of role models back then,” he says. “It was not that easy to be open about AIDS. We couldn’t even tell how many people passed away from it because you couldn’t let anyone know you had been tested.”
It’s the hope and the goal of projects like A Day With HIV in America to change the stigma of the disease. “The face of AIDS is changing. It’s not all gay guys, now it’s women, men, black, white, hispanic. This project represents the lives and hopes of all of us with HIV."
See our slideshow of images from the photo essay A Day With HIV in America.