Nearly 40 million people worldwide are living with HIV, with 1.7 million people being newly diagnosed with the disease annually. In the US, more than 1.1 million people are living with the disease and 40,000 people are newly diagnosed every year. Though some groups are disproportionately affected, no one — no matter their age, gender, race, ethnicity, income, sexuality, or location — is immune.
HIV doesn’t have one face — it has millions.
The many faces of HIV include women like Michelle Lopez, who, when she learned that both she and her young daughter, Raven, were HIV-positive, wondered who would die first. Or Brandon Dottin-Haley, who was homeless when he was diagnosed in 2010. Douglas Hill was 19 in 1993 when a doctor told him he was HIV positive and didn’t have long to live. Josh Robbins spent days curled up on the floor after he was diagnosed at 29 years old. Joe Perrone found out he was HIV positive on Halloween in 1995. Kahlib Barton and Anthony Raiola knew very little about the disease when they were diagnosed in 2011 and 1996, respectively. Janice Sweeting was diagnosed in the mid 80s; the partner who transmitted it to her died in 1989.
Michelle has been living with HIV for 29 years; Raven, who has lived with HIV since birth, is now a mother herself. Brandon is now married and runs an apparel company with his husband. Douglas is a public speaker and advocate for the Gay Men’s Health Center. Josh created a blog about his life with HIV. Joe is 64 years old and will soon celebrate his 29th Halloween since his diagnosis. Kahlib is an advocate for AIDS United. Anthony is a social worker who speaks about HIV awareness. And Janice is a 72-year-old grandmother.
Over the last 30 years, medical innovations have transformed HIV and AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable chronic illness. Thanks to antiretroviral drugs, people with HIV can have a near-normal life expectancy and viral loads at undetectable levels, reducing their risk of transmitting the disease to others to effectively zero.
But this is only possible with early diagnosis and access to treatment. The stigma associated with the virus prevents many from getting tested at all. In the US, it’s estimated that one in seven HIV positive people don’t even know they are infected. And people living with HIV who live in underserved communities with few resources may not be able to get these life-saving drugs.
The majority of people living with HIV now live in sub-Saharan Africa, including 91 percent of the world’s children living with HIV. And the majority of AIDS-related deaths worldwide are in Africa. AIDS-related infections are the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age in Southern Africa.
Johnson & Johnson has worked for over 25 years to fight HIV. It has developed medications, including some that reduce the amount of pills patients need to take to just one a day, and is currently investigating monthly injections that replace pills entirely. It’s also studying a vaccine that, if successful, could help prevent the transmission of AIDS.
On the stage at the Global Citizen Festival on Sept. 28, Dr. Paul Stoffels, the Chief Scientic Officer for Johnson & Johnson, announced the beginning of a new study to test the vaccine in MSM and transgender communities across North America, South America and Europe. “We will soon start the Mosaico trial, the first study of its kind for our investigational HIV-1 preventive vaccine. This study will include over 3,800 volunteers and our goal is to produce a universal vaccine that can be deployed anywhere in the world,” he said.
What’s at stake to #MakeHIVHistory? See what @JNJNews Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Paul Stoffels says is the next milestone in the fight against HIV/AIDS at this year's Global Citizen Festival ⭕️ pic.twitter.com/ZSaqeUEsIj— Global Citizen (@GlblCtzn) October 3, 2019
Johnson & Johnson also works with medical professionals, health authorities, advocacy groups, patients, industry leaders and more, sponsoring more than 100 HIV programs in 50 countries that care for HIV patients, increase their access to necessary drugs, and educate communities about the disease and provide preventative care to reduce its transmission.
And Johnson & Johnson continues to look for a cure that will make HIV history -- so that the faces of people who are living with the disease may one day become the faces of people living without it.