HIV-Positive TikTok Influencer Diaries Daily Life to Uplift, Inform

Tuesday March 14, 2023

Zach Willmore
Zach Willmore  (Source:Screenshot/Zach Willmore/TikTok)

19-year-old Zach Willmore is HIV-positive, and talking about it on TikTok - not with regret or misery, but as someone living his best life and looking to educate others.

NBC News documents how Willmore took to the social media platform with an ongoing conversation about living with HIV soon after his diagnosis.

@zachwillmore Day 1 of my video diary #hiv #gay #viral #diary ♬ original sound - ★ Star Boy ★

"It's Friday, Feb. 17. I'm 19 years old. And yesterday, I found out that I got diagnosed with HIV," the young man told his audience. "I feel drained emotionally, physically, everything."

In that first entry, Willmore gave vent to his darker feelings. "Honestly, I'm worried about that people will look at me as untouchable," he said at one point. At another, he noted, "I'm told people with HIV can live up to 70, but I don't even want to live past 20."

He went on to add: "I cried for 12 hours straight, and it's not gonna change anything."

Even so, his directness more typically comes complete with a dose of sunny attitude. That seems to have put some people off, the report indicated, with some "saying he's an attention-seeker, in part because of his cheery disposition as he talks about a disease that is often associated with doom," NBC News relayed.

But gloom isn't what Willmore wants to model to his audience. With modern medical science - and, crucially, routine testing and early detection to help ensure that HIV-positive people get the treatment they need as soon as possible - many people living with HIV can expect to live for as many healthy, active years as anyone else.

Effective medical regimens can also reduce a person's viral load to undetectable levels, meaning that it's no longer possible for them to transmit HIV through sexual contact.

"When I seem happy in my videos, it is because I am," the TikTok celeb told NBC. In one post the vlogger spoke about how not keeping his status a secret was "freeing," how supportive his schoolmates had proven to be, and how he had reached out to an intimate partner so that the other party could make an informed decision about getting tested.

@zachwillmore Again thank you all for the support💕 #hiv #gay #flowers ♬ Lovers Rock - TV Girl

The TikTok users responding to his posts in a similar spirit seem to get where he's coming from.

"The perspective you're offering will help a lot of people deconstruct their biases and ease the stigmas that have literally killed so many people," NBC News reported one commenter on Twitter saying.

Noting that Willmore's posts have already "amassed millions of views on TikTok," NBC News detailed how "Willmore has harnessed his social media power to educate others about the auto-immune disease, including sharing content about how the disease is spread, the science of HIV medication and a video paying homage to pioneering HIV activists and scientists."

"People are scared of the unknown," Willmore told the outlet. "Information is power, so I really wanted to help people understand."

As for the ways in which posting his story with regular updates is beneficial to Willmore, the young influencer summed it up by saying, "This has been a healing process for me. It's how I've been coping with it, and just talking through it has been really helpful."