A man with HIV asked strangers for some human contact. Their sweet reactions brought him to tears.

He went searching for the touch of a human. He found so much more.

This man stood on the streets of Helsinki and asked people to touch him.

But wait, it's not nearly as creepy as it sounds.


He's a stranger, but the real danger is ignorance. See what I did there? Image by Yle Kioski.

He's part of a unique project from Yle Kioski, a Finnish broadcasting company that is working to challenge the fear and stigma around people who have HIV.

While HIV and AIDS remain a global epidemic, stigma around the virus is harmful and deadly in its own way.

People with HIV or AIDS may experience a lack of confidentiality at the doctor's office, travel bans, employment discrimination, social isolation, and more.

A lab technician conducts an HIV test in Kampala, Uganda. Photo by Isaac Kasamani/AFP/Getty Images.

The World Health Organization cites fear of stigma and intolerance as the primary reason people are reluctant to get tested, tell others about their status, and even take the recommended anti-retroviral drugs.

To put it plainly: Fear and stigma of HIV and AIDS may be a reason it's so hard to stop them from spreading.

And that's where our Finnish friend comes in.



He's still here. Don't be alarmed. Image by Yle Kioski.

He's HIV-positive, and he's challenging stigma by asking people to touch him.

He took to the streets of Helsinki with a simple sign and a small request.

Image by Yle Kioski.

People were wary at first. They stared and passed him.

But soon, he got his first handshake.

Before long, he received hugs and support from lots of people.

Even a few kids got in on the heartwarming moment.

The love and kindness and simplicity of human touch from complete strangers was overwhelming.

When you go through life having people recoiling from your touch or being afraid that they'll accidentally catch HIV or AIDS if they sit near you too long, something as simple as a handshake or a hug means a lot.

GIF set by Yle Kioski.

It's proof that you don't need much to put a little good in the world, even when you're up against something as big as the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

We can all fight stigma and fear just by listening, offering support, and spreading kindness to the people who need it most.

Check out the rest of this touching video (sorry, I had to do it) below.

It's entirely in Finnish, but compassion is a universal language.


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