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New health department campaign, “This is life with HIV,” shares stories of local people, dispels myths

LANSING, Mich. – Life with HIV looks a lot different today than it did 30 years ago. That is the message of “This is life with HIV,” a campaign just launched by the Ingham County Health Department and Ingham Community Health Centers to share accurate information about what living with HIV means in 2019.

The campaign addresses misinformation and features local people living with HIV. People are encouraged to get tested and, if positive, connect to care. Testing and care are available at Forest Community Health Center through the health department and the Ryan White Program.

“People living with HIV can live long, happy and healthy lives,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail. “Modern treatment options are drastically improved, but unfortunately work to reduce stigma around HIV hasn’t made as much progress. There is a lot of unnecessary fear and outdated beliefs in our community when it comes to HIV. Addressing this is key to HIV prevention and treatment.”

The campaign shares the stories of local people living with HIV and is initially launching with two local campaign models. One is Jackie, a grandmother who is living with HIV and who has opted to use a pseudonym, and the second is Jonathan, a writer who is living with HIV.

“Most people are surprised when they hear the worst part of having HIV is just the hatred and death wishes from the community,” said campaign model Jonathan Thurston. “People treat me like a walking disease, but, realistically, since I’m on meds, I’m about as contagious as someone with diabetes.”

The campaign will run through September 2021 and will continue to recruit local models throughout the campaign to show the diversity of people living with HIV in Mid-Michigan. Approximately 500 people in Ingham County are living with HIV.

The campaign will recognize World AIDS Day with a free, confidential HIV testing event at Forest Community Health Center located 2316 S. Cedar Street in Lansing from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on December 2. Everyone tested will receive a free gift card. Campaign materials will also be on display.

The campaign is largely funded by an HIV Care Coordination grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. For more information and to read more about Jackie and Jonathan, visit www.lifewithhiv.org

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