Photographer and director John Gress and singer/songwriterMarshall Titus have
released "I Will," a powerful new music video that addresses HIV and
stigma among Black gay men. The video accompanies Marshall Titus'
moving and soulful track.
The beautifully lensed video tells the story of a young man who becomes
depressed after learning his HIV positive diagnosis. He shares his serostatus
with friends and a potential new romantic interest, who all offers their love
John explains The storyline for the music video, “I Will,” by singer
songwriterMarshall Titus, was inspired by a public service announcement
I shot for A Day With HIV In America (September 21st), a campaign
which sets out to stop the stigma of HIV.
For almost 30 years the focus solely on condom usage and fear has led to
a rift in the gay community. People who are negative run from people who are
positive, and people who are positive run from people who are negative to avoid
rejection. People who think they are negative are afraid to be tested because
the last thing anyone wants to be is marginalized.
All of this fear has not helped. The annual number of new HIV infections among men who have sex with men in
the US has been on the rise for nearly 20 years.
“I Will” carries the message of A Day With HIV In America well beyond
September 21st. I wanted to show that although an HIV diagnosis can be a
traumatic event, everyone has people who will love, support and accept them.
Our society has found effective treatments to limit the spread of HIV.
According to the National Institutes of Health transmission of HIV is reduced by 96% when an infected
partner (heterosexual) takes medication for the virus. The same study showed
that when people are positive and not on drug therapy they are far more likely
to transfer the virus to their sexual partner. In light of this study, to not
know your status is the true threat to public health.
Thanks to advances in treatment, the likely hood that a diagnosed person will infect someone is only
one-to-two percent per year. (2)
Condom usage should still be part of the equation, but a message of fear
I purposefully only disclosed the HIV status of one of the characters
for two reasons. I wanted it to be possible that the lead character went on a
date with someone HIV-negative. The other reason is that we can’t tell who is
positive and who is negative. According to the Centers For Disease control and
Prevention 28% African American gay men are HIV-positive and 59% of them don’t know,
meaning 1 in 6 black gay men in the US are unaware they are infected. The
statistics for the general population are not much different, 19% are positive and 44% of them don’t know. (3)
It is my hope that this video will lessen the stigma around HIV. If
fewer people live in fear then the cast, crew and I have done our job. If more
people get tested, more people will be in treatment and fewer people will be
The conversation has begun today. With your help we can spread the
message and stop the stigma. Please share this video with everyone you can,
because together we can make a difference.
To find an HIV test site in your area please visit Aids.gov.