Rankin produces celebrity portraits and 30-minute film to tackle stigma of HIV/aids
Fashion photographer Rankin has created a series of new celebrity portraits together with a new film in an effort to challenge the stigma surrounding HIV. These are set to be released next year as part of a high-profile campaign and run by the HIV charity Body & Soul.
Rankin’s celebrity portraiture subjects have so far included Kate Moss, athletes Denise Lewis and Christine Ohuruogu, and Top Boy actor Ashley Walters. With these images, Rankin was keen to demonstrate that ‘just because we are doing a campaign about HIV it doesn’t need to be doom and gloom’: rather, he has tried to create ‘bright and sexy images’, with ‘a strong sense of warmth’ that give ‘an impression of hope and life’. The idea behind the scheme is that if a high-profile celebrity is pictured promoting greater HIV and Aids awareness, the notion that the disease is something shameful is instantly lessened.
The 30-minute feature Life in My Shoes explores the lives of teenagers who live with the virus, many of them serially bullied, being seen as ‘dirty’ or ‘disgusting’. The film is based on real-life experience, with many of the HIV-positive teens taking part in the production as actors, extras or members of the crew.
‘It’s really important we remember that HIV does affect lots of people in the UK and that so many of these people are having to hide their status because of fear of discrimination’, says Rankin: ‘this campaign really has the capacity to change that and to bring attention to the fact that just because you are HIV positive doesn’t mean you need to live a double life and fear how people will treat you’.
An estimated 100,000 people in Britain are living with Aids and HIV. But rather than sympathy, many sufferers experience extreme prejudice: a 2009 survey revealed that 21% of sufferers had been verbally abused or harassed in the past 12 months, while 12% had been physically assaulted.
This abuse is on account of numerous misconceptions. For one, people are under the mistaken impression that HIV/aids is no longer really around in the UK, associating the virus with Africa or the 1980s. But he government is, as we speak, working to ‘ensure that HIV and Aids is a key public health priority’.
There is also a link often drawn between promiscuity and HIV. But such assumptions fails to take into account, for example, that 11% of HIV infections are among babies inheriting the virus from their mothers. Furthermore, people tend to believe that HIV is more contagious than it actually is, and feel under threat around individuals with the virus. Surveys reveal a disjuncture between knowledge and behavior in this respect: although 81% of respondents in 2009 knew the virus could not be transmitted by sharing a cup, only 27% of them said they would be willing to drink from the same cup as a person with HIV. And an incredible 11% said they would not remain friends with someone who had the virus.
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