A colorful HIV awareness mural featuring the phrase “Living a Positive Life” greets visitors to the Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg throughout October. The mural, created by artist Stephen Michael Haas, kicks off the statewide “Take Control HIV” campaign, a yearlong collaborative effort between five organizations across Pennsylvania.

According to the “Take Control HIV” campaign, the artwork “emphasizes the importance of open communication about HIV between all partners who are sexually intimate, including couples and singles.”

As the campaign’s title suggests, the goal of the initiative is to empower people to take control of their HIV status, whether they are living with the virus or not. This includes encouraging Pennsylvanians to get tested and to connect to care and treatment if positive. The campaign also aims to reduce HIV stigma, raise awareness and educate people about safe sex, prevention, testing, treatment and more.

The five organizations that partnered for the campaign are:

  • AIDSNET (located in Mideast Pennsylvania)

  • Family Health Council of Central PA (South Central)

  • North Central District Aids Coalition (North Central)

  • NW Alliance-Clarion University (Northwest)

  • United Way of Wyoming Valley (Northeast)

You can learn more about the campaign and HIV services at TakeControlHIV.com and by following @TakeControlHIV Facebook and Instagram. A sample post is below:

“All of us came together to reach out to people living with HIV to let them know that they can live a positive life and contribute,” said Patricia Fonzi, CEO of the Family Health Council of Central PA, in an emailed statement about the initiative. “Hopefully, this artwork will inspire people to take control and live a positive life.”

“This is a mural that I know will spread a message of open communication across the state,” added Representative Brian Sims, a Democrat who serves part of Philadelphia County. “It will empower individuals to thrive, no matter their HIV/AIDS status while helping decrease the stigma of HIV and AIDS.

“Let this mural remind all of my colleagues of the real-life struggles and successes of the diverse makeup of the Commonwealth,” Sims continued. “We, as representatives, must work every day to ensure those living with HIV are taken care of in their health care needs and that those who are at risk have the appropriate education and PrEP [pre-exposure prophylaxis] to keep themselves safe.”

In other HIV related news from Pennsylvania, see “I Have Lost More Than 400 Friends to This Disease,” about an oral history project in Allentown, and “Biden Selects Transgender Doctor Rachel Levin, MD, as Assistant Health Secretary.”