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In a poignant comic, 10 people explain what it's like living with HIV.

'I firmly believe that without this diagnosis and the journey it has led me to make, I really would be a boring narrow-minded old fart.'

In a poignant comic, 10 people explain what it's like living with HIV.

In the sea of international causes we now observe, it may be easy to forget that World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day. What should not be easily forgotten, however, is how many it's affected in just three decades.  

According to the U.K. organization National AIDS Trust, since the virus was first identified back in 1984, over 35 million people have lost their lives to it. Today, an estimated 36.7 million people are living with HIV worldwide. But thanks to advances in medicine, especially in the last decade, infection rates are going down, and people who have the disease are living longer.

While that is ultimately good news, life with HIV/AIDS is not simple, even when you take away the added regular health management. There is still a heavy stigma around it that often affects people living with either condition. Most of this seems to stem from a lack of understanding about how HIV is contracted.


English illustrator Graham Johnson, together with National AIDS Trust, wanted to help reverse the stigma by introducing the world to actual people who were handed the HIV/AIDS diagnosis over the years. He illustrated 10 of their stories to show how the individuals behind the scary statistics keep living life, often fuller than they did before.

Here they are in chronological order, from the early 1980s all the way up to today.

All illustrations by Graham Johnson/National AIDS Trust, used with permission.

Of course, there are negative experiences in here, but the point is that they don't define these people. They're challenges to overcome, after which life ultimately moves forward.

Thanks to measures by National AIDS Trust and other HIV awareness groups, people living with HIV/AIDS don't face nearly as much judgment and discrimination as they did in the past. As long as any stigma remains, however, it's important to keep the conversation about the condition going until all fears are put to rest.

It's equally as important to keep supporting prevention methods. National AIDS Trust recently won a major lawsuit that declared the National Health Service in England can fund (and must consider implementing) the HIV prevention drug PrEP. This newer drug prevents HIV-negative people from contracting the virus and thus could help lower the number of new cases significantly. Government support for these discoveries is necessary for them to have any sort of impact.

The fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic is ongoing, but the more people and organizations who stand by those who've been diagnosed, the sooner the stigma around it will become a distant memory.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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