Twenty-four years ago, Summer (not her real name) was born with HIV. But with advancement in medicine, she knows that she can live a long, full life and have a child who does not enter the world with the virus. She and another young woman at the Saint Luke's and Roosevelt Hospitals' Spencer Cox Center for Health share their stories in short videos by MyMediaLife, an organization that helps young people spread information and education about HIV in beautifully shot, informative, and engaging short public service announcements. In addition to telling her story, Summer was one of the filmmakers who helped create and produce the campaign. Here, she shares her view on this groundbreaking work.
HIV Plus: What did you gain from your experience with MyMediaLife?
Summer: Self-awareness and self-worth. This was truly a learning experience. I was infected at birth so I have been living with this condition for 24 years. This experience has helped me accept the part of myself — the part that from society’s perspective is a monstrous disease. It helped me to realize that I'm no different from someone with diabetes struggling to take their insulin daily, or a cancer patient who struggles to stay in remission. For 15 years I did not take my meds. I didn’t even acknowledge that part of my life before I made the films. But after making "Happily Ever After," I decided to start and now I take my pill happily every day.
This process also helped me to realize that current forms of awareness-raising aren’t effective enough to deter the spread of the manageable condition and that there needs to be a new approach to youth who are now more technology savvy.
What do you think was the value of making your PSAs with a group of others who share you experience?
Being among people who are living with HIV and brainstorming about the struggles that we each face — whether it’s stigma, taking our meds, or dating — gave us an emotional connection. We each shared some insight on our lives that we wished to share with the world. Knowing that the work we put into these films to help someone struggling with the same problems that we face was of great value and inspiration to all of us.