“I am a Work in Progress. I am a Work of ART.”

Content From: Timothy P. Harrison, PhD, Deputy Director for Strategic Initiatives and Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Published: June 15, 20224 min read


I am a Work of Art

The Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy’s (OIDP) National Viral Suppression Campaign seeks to encourage people with HIV who are not in care to seek and stay in care.

Appearing before a vibrant mauve background, Jasmine looks right at us, a confident “I-got-this” look in her eyes. After a quarter-turn, she puts her tiara on and swirls her cape. Curves of pink and purple swoop in. A turquoise moon appears above her left shoulder. Jasmine speaks.

“Transgender activist and ballroom house mother. Try all that on for size. But before I was a pageant queen, I was vulnerable. I denied my HIV status for five years, and it almost killed me.” She pauses, then continues. “Now I live life loud and proud with ART. Antiretroviral therapy not only helped me recover from HIV; it protects my immune system and lets me thrive. I am a work in progress. I am a work of ART.”

Jasmine’s is just one of many distinctive voices, from different walks of life—cisgender, transgender, Black, Latino, and American Indian, young and old—who have all come together to share their stories about living and thriving as a “work of ART.” In 30-second advertisements, posters, and social media posts, Jasmine and her other creative partner colleagues want anyone with HIV struggling to get into care or to stay in care to keep trying because the benefits are worth the effort to overcome any obstacles.

Playing off the dual meaning of art—a medium of creative expression and the abbreviation for “antiretroviral therapy”—the soon-to-be launched “I am a Work of ART” campaign is OIDP’s vibrant, life-affirming campaign that represents a unique collaboration with 10 creative partners, Dallas-based artist Temi Cocker, and traditional and nontraditional partners from across the country to encourage people with HIV who are not in care to get in care, stay in care, and achieve and maintain viral suppression through ART.

In another ad from the campaign, Joey stands on a dayglo pink background, mimes snapping a picture with a camera, and says: “Picture this. A Latin boy going against the cultural grain. Kicked out of the house at 13. Diagnosed with HIV at 19. The future didn’t seem so picture-perfect. But ART gave me a new start. Antiretroviral therapy means I can continue to lead a long and healthy life focused on my dreams, not a diagnosis. A life on my terms.”

Jasmine and Joey embody the tone and timbre of this campaign—open, honest, affirming—about their journeys from diagnosis to health. They speak about how much progress they have made, and it reminds us how much progress that we all have made toward ending the HIV epidemic, a key goal of our Office and the entire Federal government under the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE) initiative. After a period of no change, new infections started to decline between 2015 and 2019, and most people in the U.S. with diagnosed HIV are now virally suppressed or have an undetectable HIV viral load—almost 65% in 2020, says the CDC.

But we can and must do better to achieve our national goal of ending the HIV epidemic. If 65% are virally suppressed, it means around 35% with diagnosed HIV are not in care or taking medication that protects their health.

So, this campaign—the “I am a Work of ART” campaign—is intended to engage and inspire this important audience by reaching out to them in areas where the viral suppression rates are lower than the national rate and sharing messages about the many benefits of HIV care and treatment and encouraging their engagement in care. The campaign is supported by the Minority HIV/AIDS Fund.

Our team at OIDP has been working with our creative and community partners in many cities across the country but especially in our campaign pilot cities: Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Tulsa, and Washington, D.C.

On June 6, new video and audio advertisements started running in these eight cities across the U.S. On June 18, we have brought together most of our creative partners in a roundtable discussion facilitated by Harold Phillips, Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP). We’ll have a filmmaker there who will help us amplify the voices of our partners in a video that will be featured at AIDS 2022, the National Ryan White Conference, and elsewhere. And we have a full summer of campaign activities planned.

We hope you will join us in sharing the campaign messages and assets to help ensure that everyone with HIV, even though they are a work in progress just like the rest of us, can become a work of ART.

For more information about the campaign, please visit HIV.gov/ART.