“We’ll keep talking also about issues that have been forgotten, as long as ignorance and prejudice are in the lead.“
By choosing the campaign’s theme — raising awareness around HIV and preventing discrimination against people with HIV — Direct Media creatives are sending the strong message that they hold space also for those who are not much in the public eye right now.
Since the beginning of 2020, we have all been focusing on the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, in the meantime, we have forgotten and stopped talking about the modern world’s biggest pandemic — the decades-long HIV pandemic, which will certainly not stop spreading just because we keep silent about it. Rather the contrary, the number of infected hasn’t been in decline in years (barring 2020, because of fewer people tested).
Amidst the pandemic that has alarmed the public around the world, not many are thinking about the number of people around us infected with HIV, their feelings, their treatment, or if we as a society know enough about living with the virus… Especially since — despite the constant efforts to raise public awareness around the disease — it seems that ignorance and prejudice are still in the lead.
POTENT.rs deals with these exact issues in its HIV is a Label campaign, which is inspired by personal stories and aims to bring the spotlight back to this critical issue, as well as to encourage the public to ask themselves the same questions and get educated.
“The campaign’s goal is to raise awareness of the issues faced by HIV-positive people, to let people know that living with HIV is possible and normal, as well as to call on the general public to visit potent.rs and get educated and learn all the relevant facts,” says the organization, which carries out activities in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In addition, they work and team up with public health institutes.
Beyond what the lives of people with HIV look like and how stigmatized they feel, the organization reminds us every day that HIV counseling and testing is recommended for all sexually active people because that is the only way to know one’s HIV status, and that if the test result is positive, treatment can prevent the disease progression, AIDS, and fatal outcome.
Because despite the present discrimination, it is encouraging that in comparison with the 1980s, the epidemic situation has completely changed from when we were seeing horrible pictures of young, sick people dying.
“If treatment is started on time, patients are able to avoid shortened life expectancy, and successful treatment ensures that HIV is not transmitted to sexual partners.”
In support of the fact that today it is close to impossible to distinguish between a sick person and a healthy one on the spot, the campaign photos show the bodies of young people without any visible marks of the disease.
“Since our starting point are authentic personal stories, we wanted to show real, unedited photographs of real people’s bodies. The simplicity of composition, lighting, and body position highlights that the solution to the issue of discrimination lies in simple mechanisms — discussing the issue and educating the general public,” says Kosta Đuraković, director of photography and visual artist.
“At a time when we are exposed to unprecedented amounts of information, visuals, and content, the campaign must be authentic, unique, and realistic in order to draw attention and raise awareness on a particular issue,”adds Stefan Gajić, Direct Media’s creative lead and campaigns art director.
HIV is a Label is run by Potent in partnership with Direct Media and Fusion Communications.