MA Photography, Falmouth University
Living with HIV – a compelling photographic documentary that sheds light on the lives of HIV-positive individuals in Switzerland. The series offers an intimate glimpse into the daily lives, struggles, and triumphs of those living with HIV/AIDS, capturing the resilience and courage of these individuals as they navigate the challenges of the condition.
Through contemporary art and documentary photography, Living with HIV offers a thought-provoking reflection on HIV in Switzerland, providing a poignant and honest portrayal of the lives of HIV-positive persons. The series not only aims to raise HIV awareness but also to challenge stigmas and stereotypes associated with the condition.
With the information from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and Aids-Hilfe Schweiz websites, Living with HIV is a vital contribution to the ongoing conversation around HIV/AIDS. By showcasing the realities of living with HIV, the series offers a unique perspective on the condition and provides a platform for individuals to share their stories.
Living with HIV is a must-see for anyone interested in contemporary photography, documentary photography on HIV/AIDS, and the lived experiences of those with the condition. The series provides an essential contribution to the field and is a powerful testament to the strength and resilience of those living with HIV in Switzerland.
Angela got the infection from her first husband, who kept it a secret from her. After getting HIV, Angela decided to tell her friends and family for the sake of her own wellbeing. Her husband couldn’t handle it. She realized that she should enjoy every moment of her life. The marriage failed. One night her husband stabbed her in the chest. The court did not believe Angela. The judge said she did it to herself to get back at her husband for infecting her. Angela became homeless and jobless overnight. But she got her life back on track.
Michèle knew her boyfriend had HIV. But it was not a barrier to their love. Back in
the 1990s HIV treatment was not as good as it is today. When Michèle contracted
the virus from her boyfriend back in 1994 it was a death sentence for her. She
thought she was going to die. Her parents wanted a break from her. Her friends were
sad and scared. But Michèle did not give up on her life. She became an activist for
HIV awareness. Today she is open about her HIV status. She lives with her 2
teenage daughters in the countryside and most of the people in her village accept
her as she is. But she still notices discrimination in medical settings; e.g. when it
comes to dentist appointments, she always gets the last appointment of the day.
Sadly, stigma is still alive and the lack of access to information, care and treatment
for all people living with HIV hurts her soul.
Raphi suspects he knows the individual who infected him but he cannot say it for sure
because that individual has refused to take a test. Raphi had a wonderful childhood
surrounded by his parents and relatives. He is mentally very strong. At the moment he
is studying at the Belvoirpark Hotelfachschule in Zurich and he wants to work for highend hotels.
Dr. Schneider comes from a Russian-German family. He was born in the former
USSR (now Russia) and then lived some time in the Ukraine. He received his PhD in
chemistry from the MLU in Halle (Saale) in Germany. Back in the 1980s society looked
down on gay people even though things have improved since then. Alex had to marry
a girl due to societal pressures at that time, but soon after they decided to end the
marriage and remain friends. Alex later remarried and he loves his husband. Alex has
been living with HIV for 9 years. He does not know from whom he got the virus. When
he told his mother about it, she wasn’t shocked, but he thinks she was still recovering
from learning that he is gay. Probably she thought there is nothing worse than her son
being gay. It took her 10 years to accept that he is gay. Now Alex’s mother loves her
son-in-law. When it comes to cooking and feeding delicious food, Alex’s husband gets
the most attention – Alex complains.
Werner originally comes from Emmental. When his boyfriend died due to HIV, Werner
opened up to this mother about his infection. She always cared about him and wanted
his best. As a young person, Werner enjoyed living and working in Zurich but now that
he is in his 50s, he prefers a quieter lifestyle in Bern. He was always open to his sexual
partners about his infection. Luckily, he did not have any issues at his work in Zurich,
they accepted him as he is. Unfortunately, Werner also suffered from cancer along
with his HIV. It made him depressed and at some point, his self-esteem was very low.
Due to his health condition, he could not go to work anymore. In 2018 when the
government decided to cut his disability allowance to 50% it hurt him financially and
mentally. How could you expect someone at his age to re-integrate into work after the
years of gap in between? At the moment, he needs to think twice before buying food,
paying rent and other expenses, let alone thinking about going on holiday. If someone
decides to buy his image, he will donate 100% of his net proceeds to charity.
X is open about her HIV. Just over a year ago she met her boyfriend. X
encouraged him to accompany her to a doctor’s appointment. Soon he found out that
what he had learnt at school didn’t apply anymore. If you have the correct information
you don’t have to worry about getting HIV. You can have a normal relationship like
others. X and her boyfriend have sex without condoms. The message she wants
to send out to the world is U=U, undetectable = untransmittable or treatment as
prevention. People with HIV who achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load (the
amount of HIV in the blood) by taking antiretroviral therapy daily as prescribed cannot
transmit the virus to others. She urges people not to be prejudiced. People with HIV
are like everyone else. They can have sex without condoms with their partners and
not worry about infecting them. They can also give birth naturally and breastfeed
children without infecting them.
Photo Schweiz 2022