2012 marks the thirty year anniversary of some of the most important dates in the history of HIV and AIDS – the 30th anniversaries of the recognition of the AIDS epidemic by the US medical profession and the creation of the Terrence Higgins Trust in July – and photographer Edoardo Zollo is celebrating by calling out for 30 people who are HIV positive to come forward for a project he is working on to commemorate these events.
World AIDS Day rolls around every year, and sure, we will occasionally put a pound in the charity box that some poor guy is holding whilst freezing his unmentionables off outside Prowler, and maybe we will even participate in a fundraising event for people who live with the disease, but do we really think about it seriously? Well there is a guy who had a sudden realisation of what it could potentially be like to be HIV positive, and realised there was more he could do to help raise awareness of the disease. Edo told So So Gay, ‘I had a close encounter with HIV last September. I had unprotected sex with a gay man I knew who was positive: it was just a one-night stand. The following day I went to the clinic and started PEP [Post Exposure Prophylaxis - the course of antiretrovirals that can help defend against HIV if taken within 48 hours of possible infection] for 28 days, and the side effects were pretty intense, which made me think how difficult it must be living as someone with HIV – socially, physically, emotionally and financially. So being a photographer, there must be a way I can send the message through, so I thought “Let’s do it as a photography project!”’
Having carried out projects similar to this with the elderly, dogs deemed too dangerous by the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, prisoners undergoing rehabilitation and people with full-body tattoos, Edo seems to enjoy pushing the boundaries of assumption: ‘“Assumptions are the biggest fuck-up in life’ is my motto. So, by these projects I try and break assumptions and break it down to individuality. So, if you go into the HIV project, I’m trying to break down the assumption that you can recognise someone with HIV by them being gay, skinny, pale, close to death – these are the assumptions about people with HIV that are given’. It is these prejudices which Edo would like to help to dispel; “I started this project by wanting to raise awareness around World AIDs Day – that [AIDS] is not just a ‘gay’ disease. So what I wanted to achieve was to bring in as diverse a group as possible – not based on skin, sexuality, sex that kind of thing”, he told us.
We spoke to Ian ‘Teddy’ Thomas, one of Edo’s participants in the project, who said “I decided to join the project to help highlight that people with HIV and can lead a normal life. It’s no longer a death sentence. People need to understand that their friends, family, co-workers are no longer dying from this disease but living with it. We won’t give in. And because you can no longer tell who is HIV+ we need to all use a condom when having sex, and know your status. It will save your life”.
Edo is currently working on finding a gallery to display his work for September. For more information, follow him on Twitter, check out his Tumblr, for more pics spot his Flickr, and if you are interested in taking part, email him at [email protected]
You won’t regret it.