Stories Behind Facing AIDS – Photo-sharing


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Chris Barnhill

Christopher Barnhill, School Engagement Manager, Metro TeenAIDS

Why I Face AIDS
By Christopher Barnhill

It is said that you will find your purpose in life, but I truly believe that your purpose finds you. I am honored to wake up every day to the work I do at Metro TeenAIDS to educate youth in Washington, DC’s public and charter schools about comprehensive reproductive health. When I was a teenager, I always dreamed of having a career in music publishing. I lived and breathed singing and writing. But that changed. I remember so vividly the day I tested positive for HIV at the age of 16. I was terrified of the effects of HIV but I was mostly terrified of the huge mantel that I would carry.

I disclosed my HIV diagnosis to my guardian and then my guardian told me that my birth mother had died of AIDS. That news shocked me, but what shocked me even more was when my guardian told me that “this would be our secret and you don’t have to tell anybody about it!” Those words brought me to where I am today.

With the revelation of my mother’s death from AIDS and my own diagnosis, I felt that God was laying the foundation of my purpose. It sometimes gets scary speaking publicly about being HIV-positive. Often, I want to hand in the towel, but then I think of the many people who are positive, waiting to hear about my life with HIV. I am here to remind them that they still have a life. We hear that we are born and die alone but we don’t travel through this life alone. I think of my life’s purpose as a relay race. The second runner can only run when the first runner makes it around the track and passes the baton.

I do the work of public speaking and educating DC youth because I have learned that I have a baton to pass: a baton of a better tomorrow, a healthier youth population, and a reminder that people with HIV can live and lead a prosperous life. This is why I run this relay race. The plan for my life is tied into other people’s destiny — and if I don’t run, they can’t run. This is why I face AIDS!

We all have a story to tell about why we’re facing AIDS. Upload your photo and Facing AIDS message for World AIDS Day at or download the Facing AIDS iPhone app!

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