Internationally known, award-winning photographer Duane Cramer has become an advocate for HIV awareness for over two decades after finding out that his best friend died of the disease. His best friend being his father.
Duane’s dad died of AIDS 29 years ago. Because HIV/AIDS had such a huge stigma back then, the family initially told everyone that his father died of cancer.
“He had been sick on and off for quite some time; the doctors really didn’t know what was going on,” Cramer recalled. “In the ‘80s, when my father died, there were no medications…there was a lot of shame and guilt around HIV/AIDS. We were really fearful of the stigma…we actually told people that he had died of cancer.”
Duane then started volunteering for various HIV-educational programs. But he felt like something was missing from the conversation, and that the HIV/AIDS story from a black perspective needed to be told.
After 10 years of volunteering, Duane contracted HIV himself from a relationship. Both his and his father’s diagnoses fueled his passion to educate the community even more.