Acclaimed photographer and HIV advocate Duane Cramer is partnering with Project Runway star Mondo Guerra on the national HIV education campaign “I Design,” which encourages people with HIV to become personally involved in their treatment.
“I Design” kicked off the second year of its initiative on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Feb. 7., promoting new interactive online tools to help with HIV management.
Cramer has lived with HIV for nearly two decades. He is also a passionate activist for HIV awareness and education, particularly in the African-American community.
Since being diagnosed as HIV-positive, he has made the illness his artistic lens, no matter the subject. Although he has photographed the rich and famous, he says his most rewarding work is the attention he brings to African-Americans living with HIV.
Cramer lost his father Joe J. Cramer, Jr., PhD, an accomplished academic, to the disease in 1986. Back then, the media depicted the face of HIV as a gay white man.
“We felt shame because of this stereotype, so we told people he died of cancer, “said Cramer. It was after his mother encouraged him and his sister to make a panel for the AIDS quilt in their father’s honor, the family decided to tell the truth and not be ashamed.
Having had his own struggles with medication adherence, Cramer talks about the new digital app and how it helps a person to keep tabs on what kind of side effects and symptoms they may be experiencing.
“As a person who has lived with HIV for a long time, I’ve learned that self-expression is incredibly important, especially when it comes to working with my doctor on a treatment plan,” said Cramer.
“I talk to my doctor about any symptoms I may be having as a result of any of the medications I take, as well as any other health issues or concerns I may be experiencing. For instance, high cholesterol is often a problem with certain drugs,” he explains.
“What I’ve learned from living with HIV for a long time is that we’re all different, and our treatment plans should reflect that. So this campaign is going to encourage people to have really open and meaningful discussions with their doctors about their plans, based on what their specific medical lifestyle needs are.”
Mirroring the two populations most heavily affected by continuing high HIV transmission rates – Latino and Black men that have sex with men (MSM) – Guerra and Cramer share their personal stories and challenges of living with HIV and being in care.
Guerra disclosed his status for the first time in the eighth season of Project Runway in 2010. He has served as the voice of the campaign since 2012. Project Runway is a popular TV reality competition series that focuses on fashion designing and is hosted by model Heidi Clump.
The “My Health Matters” and “My Positive Agenda” mobile and desktop apps are now available on www.ProjectIDesign.com