November 21, 2011
A groundbreaking music video, whose main character is a young black man grappling with HIV, has been viewed more than 9,000 times on YouTube.com since its September debut. The work grew out of a public service announcement for Test Positive Aware Network created by Chicago-based photographer John Gress. The PSA promoted the outreach "A Day in the Life with HIV," which asked Americans living with the virus to photograph themselves on Sept. 21 and post the photos to a website.
After collecting hours of testimonials, Gress needed music and called on a good friend, R&B singer Marshall Titus, for help. Nothing really worked until they came across the track to "I Will," a mellow but uplifting work Titus recorded not long after losing his mother. Within days, Gress was piecing together a story for the music video based on the interviews he conducted.
Gress and Titus refined a script, hired local actors and 30 days later were finished with the five-minute music video. It opens with a young black man waking up in bed after a one-night stand. Apparently upset, the man later makes his way to an HIV clinic where he learns he is positive. The video follows his journey dealing with the news, revealing his status to a roommate, a close friend, and a potential date. The friends are supportive, and the potential date, whose status is never revealed, still goes out with the man, telling him "It's OK."
"We really just hope that through the video people will be less fearful of people who are HIV-positive, and they'll also be less fearful of getting tested, which is the important part of stopping the epidemic," Gress said.