A new web series from Todd Flaherty is elevating the conversation surrounding what it means to have an undetectable HIV-positive status and helping to break down stigma for those living with HIV.
According to Tyler Curry, creator of The Needle Prick Project, "an HIV-positive person can achieve undetectable levels after undergoing antiretroviral therapy (ART). A level of a person’s HIV viral load is what causes them to be more or less likely to transmit the disease. An undetectable viral load reduces the likelihood of transmission by 96 percent."
Many people, queer and straight alike, are still uneducated about what exactly undetectable means. Flaherty's new web series, appropriately titled "Undetectable," follows a fictional gay man after he finds out about his own HIV diagnosis and his subsequent journey.
The Huffington Post chatted with Flaherty this week about his new project.
The Huffington Post: Why did you make a web series about someone with an undetectable HIV-positive status?
Todd Flaherty: The lack of awareness of the term "undetectable" is one of the reasons I was inspired to tell this story. Perhaps the recent news regarding Charlie Sheen and Danny Pintauro have made it a little more visible, but HIV is still shrouded behind a veil of shame that keeps people from having honest conversations about their health.
Silence is death. Education is key to helping the general public understand exactly what HIV is and how a person can not only seek treatment to live with the virus, but also prevent further infections.
What do you think are some of the biggest obstacles we have to overcome when it comes to breaking down HIV stigma?
In order to overcome the stigma associated with HIV, we must first remember that an HIV-positive person is neither a deviant, nor a victim. It's been more than thirty years since the first cases of HIV were documented. We have made great strides in our treatment and prevention methods yet, still, HIV is associated with the AIDS epidemic, unsafe sex, drug use and prostitution. Oftentimes we believe that a person with HIV did something wrong or bad to "deserve" it. No one "deserves" to contract a life-threatening illness. And the sooner we move on from that notion, the better.
The other great challenge in fighting stigma is to understand that HIV is not a death sentence. Many poz individuals on treatment maintain active, healthy lifestyles well into their senior years.
What do you want people to take away from this web series?
HIV does not define a person. In New York City alone, over 100,000 people are living with the virus. When people watch "Undetectable," I hope they are able to move beyond the HIV diagnosis itself and connect with the human story of a young man on a journey of self-discovery. Perhaps they'll stop seeing a disease and start seeing the person -- a brother, daughter, son, or close friend.
When we strip away the labels we place on ourselves and others, we realize all humans want the same thing: to make a connection with one another and to feel like our short time on this earth matters. Undetectable refers to a poz person's viral load, yes, but it also literally means not able to be detected... invisible. So most of all, I hope this series offers a new perspective on a community of people who, for too long, have been undetectable among us.
Check out the trailer for "Undetectable" above or head here to watch the web series for yourself.