U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Human truth becomes poetry to destigmatize life with HIV

Black women make up 60% of all new HIV diagnoses in women in the U.S. despite accounting for less than 15% of the female population. As part of an effort from HHS to combat stigmas that a may contribute to low treatment rates or insufficient awareness and care, we wanted to shine a light on what is not often said out loud—those living with HIV are worthy of love.

Ebony Payne-English, poet, educator, mother, and long-term HIV survivor, lent her words about her lived experience about coming to terms with her diagnosis through a poem in motion. Her profound creative vision infused the piece with authenticity and truthfulness, encouraging the viewer to make space for self-reflection and left them with one final message—true intimacy is possible, no matter your status.

Ebony Payne-English smiles with a flower crown and bold facepaint
Ebony Payne-English looks away from her reflection in the mirror that's still looking at her

Confronting complexity

The video’s unique combination of poetry and factual storytelling helps illuminate the experience of living (and thriving) with HIV in a fresh and authentic way.

Ebony Payne-English in a foggy room looking sad with her hand on her head
Ebony Payne-English grimaces looking into the camera

Building empathy

Ebony’s poetry about her personal struggle of self-discovery and acceptance guides the narrative and redirects the conversation from an HIV diagnosis to one about moving forward fully and unapologetically.

Ebony Payne-English reclining on a day bed, smiles looking at flowers