When Zach Willmore was diagnosed with HIV this February, he thought his life was over. But the 19-year-old influencer soon learned that thanks to modern medicine, he could still live a rich and full life, even while HIV-positive.

Lucky for us, Willmore chose to share his story with the world, and now, he documents his life for 1.9 million followers on TikTok. Willmore’s content shows what it looks like to live with HIV in 2023, and spoiler alert: the future looks bright.

“When I started recording my journey with getting diagnosed with HIV, it was honestly for myself,” Willmore told Queerty earlier this year. “Then after the fact, after I kind of got a grasp of it and was healing myself, I was starting to think, like, a lot of people are also going through this, don’t have as good of a support system, don’t have as large of a support system as I do. So I really want to be there for people like me, who maybe are still stressed about it. I really wanted to be there to show that other people are going through the same thing as them.”

@zachwillmore

Week 6, thank you for all the support #hiv #information #review

? Storytelling – Adriel

Willmore’s content covers everything from the first days after his diagnosis, to re-entering the dating scene, to officially becoming undetectable (meaning his viral load of HIV is so low that he cannot transmit the virus). The videos are candid, entertaining, and educational, and Willmore hopes they can help end the persistent stigma around HIV and AIDS.

“I really want to just show people how far medical advancements have come,” Willmore said. “I know that when I got diagnosed, I knew very little about the topic about AIDS and HIV in general. So honestly, I hope it reaches everyone, but especially people who already have stigmatized thoughts, or people who could be a little bit more educated about the topic.”

@zachwillmore

As I learn more information about what this means I will be sure to let you know #hiv #viral

? original sound – ? Star Boy ?

Unfortunately, being so open about a topic as taboo as HIV has earned Willmore more than his share of hate online. In one instance, a video Willmore made of him going shopping with his mother went viral on right-wing Twitter, where homophobes took issue with the fact an HIV-positive person could be *gasp* happy with their life and hopeful for their future.

“That was so scary to me, because I honestly don’t even have a Twitter account. I learned from someone else who sent me a screenshot, and I saw that it was being taken out of context,” Willmore said. “I remember pacing back and forth through the halls and talking to my friends about how nervous I was.”

Of course, that increased attention earned Willmore plenty of well-deserved love, too. As one viral response put it, “A goofy Zoomer who gets HIV being able to envision a future of getting a few extra tests and taking a couple of daily pills is one of the greatest triumphs of medical science in human history and we should give daily thanks to god that it happened.”

Willmore takes his haters in stride, and looks downright fabulous while doing it. And to anyone who’d shame Willmore and other HIV-positive folks, he has a simple message: he is more than a diagnosis.

“It’s only a facet of who I am, if that,” Willmore said. “It’s not even something that should define you. So I will continue to live my life, and I hope that as I continue to process my journey, these people will learn to see that it is just, you can continue to live a wonderful and fulfilling life even if you’re diagnosed, and it’s only a very small portion of your journey as a person.”

@zachwillmore

Replying to @isaakbenjamin last time i wear this coat before i put it away for the summer? #outfitrepeater #summer

? original sound – holabiches_

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