The Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy’s (OIDP) new campaign seeks to encourage people with HIV who are not in care to seek care, stay in care, and achieve viral suppression.
In 2019, Blacks/African Americans represented 13% of the U.S. population, but 40% of people with HIV. 1 Adding to that, the rate of new HIV infections among Black women is 11 times that of White women and four times that of Latina women. The Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is working to change these disparities by improving rates of viral suppression within communities disproportionately affected by HIV, an essential goal of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. initiative. Launched in June of this year, OIDP’s “I am a Work of ART” campaign features the story of 10 people with HIV—the campaign’s “creative partners”—as the artistic inspiration behind the campaign.
By sharing their stories, the campaign encourages people with an HIV diagnosis to seek care, stay in care, and achieve and maintain viral suppression through antiretroviral therapy, also known as ART.
HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, attacks and destroys the infection-fighting cells of the immune system, decreasing the body’s ability to fight infections and certain HIV-related cancers. ART, if taken as prescribed, reduces the amount of HIV in the body (viral load) to a very low-level by2 preventing HIV from making copies of itself, which reduces the amount of HIV in the body.
The less HIV in the body, the better the chance the immune system has to recover from infection.3 This result is called viral suppression. Viral suppression prevents illness and helps people with HIV stay healthy. It also helps reduce the spread of HIV because people with an undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV to their HIV-negative partner.
Ashley, a wife, mom, community advocate, and one of the campaign’s creative partners, felt a special connection to the campaign because of how ART has changed her life.
“I chose to support this campaign because there was a time in my life where I allowed my (HIV) diagnosis to take over my happiness,” Ashley says. “I was depressed for years, with suicidal thoughts. I thought God was punishing me and I did not understand why.”
Ashley was born with HIV and as she became older, she realized that there was a purpose to her life, and she was going to discover that purpose. For her, HIV no longer felt like a death sentence.
“Because of ART, I am healthy, and my family is healthy. My son and my husband are not living with HIV. They are negative. This is possible because I have an undetectable viral load through ART.”