Austin Faces AIDS: Portraits of People Living with HIV and AIDS is a multimedia project whose aim is to increase HIV and AIDS awareness and reduce stigma by putting a local face to the statistics and the disease.

For a year I visited with, photographed and recorded the stories of 16 individuals from all walks of life, sexual orientation and gender who are living with HIV/AIDS in Austin, Texas.

There are an estimated 33 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS. 490,696 people are living with the disease in America. 61,595 are living in the state of Texas and 5,505 are living with HIV/AIDS in Austin, Texas.

This project was a collaboration with AIDS Services of Austin

Watch Individual videos on Austin Faces AIDS channel on Vimeo

In March of 2010 Richard was feeling sick, and had swollen lymph nodes and was losing weight, after talking with his doctor, he decided to get tested for HIV. He tested positive. The doctor’s said he probably had been positive for 4-5 years and didn’t know, because his CDC levels were so low. A month later he ended up in the hospital and was diagnosed with AIDS.With the help of medications, his CDC levels are now in the undetectable range.


Richard has been living with HIV for almost 5 years.

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Dave tested positive for HIV in September of 1986. He was an undergraduate student at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. Dave got tested after a fellow student he met at a local gay bar showed up at his room and told him he had just tested positive for HIV. He was Dave's first sexual encounter. 


Dave has been living with HIV for over 28 years.

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Clara tested positive for HIV in 1998. Her sister told her she had tested positive for HIV, after she woke up from a six month coma in a nursing home. Clara had been beaten, raped and found naked in a dumpster. The man who raped her was HIV positive.


Clara has been living with HIV for 16 years.

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In June of 2008, Chris tested negative for HIV, on July 23, 2008, he tested positive. Chris was 21 years old. He got tested because he wasn’t feeling good several days after having sexual intercourse with a new partner. When he tested positive for HIV Chris told the clinic the name of the person he had sex with, the clinic contacted the man and tested him for HIV, he tested positive. He didn’t know.


Chris has been living with HIV for over 6 years.

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Dennis (L) tested positive for HIV in March of 1994. Dennis went to the clinic after he had been suffering with the worst strep throat and mouth ulcers for ten days. They gave him an antibiotic and the strep throat went away, three days later his lymph nodes swelled to golf ball size. When Dennis went back to the clinic, they told him that they had run the HIV test on him (without his knowledge) and he was positive. He had no idea he was going to be finding out the results that day.

Lorenzo (R) tested positive for HIV in November of 2008 when he was 21 years old. Lorenzo had a feeling he was positive and got tested after his then sexual partner told him he had AIDS. After Lorenzo was told by the doctor, he started crying. “I’m not crying because I’m HIV positive … I’m crying because it is the end of what was, I’m crying because I let myself get this way.”


Lorenzo has been living with HIV for 4 years and Dennis has been living with HIV for 18 years.

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Henry tested positive for HIV in 1997. He found out he was positive after his recovery from surgery took longer than expected. After he was finally released, he had a stroke due to stress related to the recovery and diagnosis. The fear of not being able to walk his daughter down the aisle haunted him. “When I first found out I was positive, I gathered literature to educate myself about the virus and how to maintain my health, I wanted to live a better life and a longer life for my family.”


Henry has been HIV positive for 18 years.

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Derrick tested positive for HIV in 1987. While working in Oklahoma City, OK, he called his mom as he did everyday during his lunch break, she told him he had mail from the Sylvan Blood Institute, not thinking anything of it, Derrick told her to open it. She read what it said, that he was HIV positive. “She was on one end of the phone and I was the other … I just withdrew and shrunk into this incredibly shrinking person and was holding this big phone, it was too surreal.”


Derrick passed away on October 29, 2012. He was 49 years old and lived with HIV/AIDS for 25 years.

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It was 1998 and Tim was at home napping when the phone woke him up. It was the nurse calling to tell him she had the results from his HIV test and that they were positive and gave him the phone number of the only HIV/AIDS doctor in Kenosha, WI. Tim had been clean for six months at the time of the test, he is former intravenous drug user. This past year, I photographed Tim & his wife’s (she is HIV negative) wedding in Austin, Texas.


Tim has been living with HIV for 16 years.

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Chris was tested for HIV in 1987 when he was first put into the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system. They asked him if he wanted to be tested for HIV and he said yes, because "I was living a risky lifestyle...". Two weeks later Chris was told by the prison doctor that he had an incurable disease and would die in ten years. "That was it, I was shuffled back to my cell with no further information. "

Chris has been living with HIV for 27 years.

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Guy tested positive for HIV in 1986. While living in Denver, CO, he went to the emergency room for shingles. It was during an examination that two suspicious spots were discovered. It was at that time he was tested and diagnosed with HIV. While waiting for his diagnosis, Guy could only think of T.S. Eliot poem, The Hollow Men: “This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang but a whimper.”


Guy has been living with HIV for 28 years.

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Phillip had just separated from his wife when she was murdered in their home on January 13, 1988.  About a month later he learned he tested positive for HIV. “This was 1988 all I could see was two orphan kids…I realized I could not get sick, I was all the only support they had. So, I said I would make it til they turned 18, and I did and that was a long time ago.”


Philip has been living with HIV for 27 years.

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Yolanda tested positive for HIV in 2009. She was there for a week and then released to Doug’s House, the first (1988) and still only residential hospice care facility for people living with HIV/AIDS in Central Texas. “It was very emotional, lots of things went through my mind, scary, scary more then anything else, but now I was angry of course, cuz what didn’t happen to me when I was younger, it happened to me when I was in my 40’s, can you imagine, but I learned to live with that and just move on.” Yolanda was in and out of Doug’s House for the next two years.


Due to complications from the illness Yolanda passed away on June 26, 2012, she was 52 years old. She lived with HIV for 3 years

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Shawn tested positive for HIV in May of 1990. He was 19 years old at the time and living in Los Angeles, CA. He had just moved back to Los Angeles from Kansas City, MO after breaking up with his boyfriend. Because he didn’t have anywhere to live, he entered Citrus House, a homeless shelter for LGBT youth. A requirement to live there included getting tested. It was there he learned of his diagnosis. The thought that devastated him the most was knowing “that [he] could take a life with the act of love.”


Shawn has been HIV positive for 24 years.

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The HIV test was just becoming available in the spring of 1985, shortly before Gary and his partner, Richard, met and decided to get tested. Gary tested positive for HIV and Richard tested negative, and still tests negative today. Richard knew that he loved Gary and the two stayed together despite Gary’s diagnosis. They have been together for 28 years. I was honored to photograph their wedding in NYC in September 2012.


Gary has been living with HIV for 29 years.

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