- Zachary Willmore from Missouri shared how HIV is affecting his life
- The 19-year-old posts daily videos on his TikTok describing how he feels
- He’s trying to end the stigma surrounding the disease
A 19-year-old who was recently diagnosed with HIV has revealed how the disease has transformed his life through candid videos that follow him from the day he was tested to the day he started taking medication .
Zachary Willmore, from Missouri, has gone viral on TikTok for his daily vlogs which began the day he was diagnosed with HIV.
The San Diego State University student felt like it was the ‘end of the world’ when he saw the positive test result, but now he’s on a mission to end the stigma surrounding the disease.
On the video-sharing platform, the teenager revealed he felt ‘gross’ when he first contracted the disease, but after he started taking medication he developed a sense of freedom in publicly sharing his journey.
Zachary’s first video was posted on February 17. Although he recorded his videos as he went through daily life with the disease, he only started posting a week after “finding out”.
He captioned his very first video on the subject: “It’s Friday February 17th. I’m 19. And yesterday I learned that I had been diagnosed with HIV.
The incurable disease that Zachary will live with for the rest of his life: what is HIV and how is it managed?
- The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks your immune system and interferes with your body’s ability to fight off other infections and diseases.
- It can be spread through infected blood, semen or vaginal secretions. Currently, there is no cure for the disease, but there are medications that can help people with HIV control and prevent progression.
- If left unmedicated, HIV can lead to AIDS, a chronic and potentially fatal disease, in eight to ten weeks.
- Some people with HIV develop flu-like symptoms two to four weeks after contracting the virus.
- Symptoms of HIV include fever, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes.
- About 1.2 million people in the country are HIV positive.
- About 13% of them don’t know and need to be tested.
In the first clip, the 19-year-old describes the overwhelming feeling of getting a positive test result.
“I just, honestly, feel so rude. I wish I could take a big needle and drain all the blood from my body now.
“People keep telling me I’m going to be okay. Honestly, it feels like the end of the world to me. All I can think of is household diseases forever.
“I can never get rid of it. I just feel drained, emotionally, physically.
“Like, I was told that people with HIV can live to be 70, but I don’t even want to live past 20,” he said.
He explained that he had spent the “last 12 hours” crying, then realized that his tears “changed anything”.
After learning his result, the San Diego State University student returned home to Missouri to spend time with loved ones, telling his peers he was going home to ‘mourn the death’ of his cat.
In his second video, Zachary revealed his friends convinced him to “hang out”, adding that he had a lot of fun and realized his life wasn’t over.
“I can still do all my daily activities,” he said.
Then the teenager revealed how his friends took the news. He explained that he told a few close friends he was moving back to Missouri for medical reasons, so many of his friends thought he was “going to die.”
“When I told my friends I had an illness and was coming home for something medical, they all assumed I was terminal.
“So when I told them I had HIV, they were honestly relieved,” he explained.
He revealed that his friends and parents were extremely supportive of him.
He ended the video noting that he is “happy” and will continue to create content and “spread joy”.
Zachary has become a big voice on social media, where he has over 1.8 million followers, and uses his platform to educate others on the importance of medication, testing, using a condom and the nature of the disease.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks your immune system and interferes with your body’s ability to fight off other infections and diseases.
It can be spread through infected blood, semen or vaginal secretions. Currently, there is no cure for the disease, but there are medications that can help people with HIV control and prevent progression.
If left unmedicated, HIV can lead to AIDS, a chronic and potentially fatal disease, in eight to ten weeks.
Some people with HIV develop flu-like symptoms two to four weeks after contracting the virus. Symptoms of HIV include fever, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes.
Recently, Zachary had an appointment to test his viral load, which reveals the amount of virus in an infected person’s blood.
“So a high viral load would be in the millions, and I have a viral load of 11,400, so that’s already very low, so it’s going to be very easy for me to go undetectable,” he shared. .
Zachary also shared that he confirmed who gave him the disease and didn’t blame them because they didn’t know they had it.
The teenager also said that after taking medication he started to feel much better and was coming to terms with the disease focusing on enjoying the joy in his life.
He is creating more and more videos to show that those struggling with the disease are not alone.
On his TikTok, he said, “I want to show that this doesn’t have to define who you are or your life.
“I also hate how secretive it is, like people treat it like it’s quiet, which makes people feel ashamed to have it,” he explained.
Although Zachary uses his platform for good, he has received hate from critics who claim he should “go through the emotions” instead of “just making a show for good content”.
The 19-year-old was also criticized for being ‘too happy’, but he noted he didn’t take the disease lightly but wanted to show his viewers that it shouldn’t be taking over on their life.
He also noted that daily vlogging helped him “get through the whole process.”
“Seeing my own video vlog is like a way of coping for me,” he explained.
And while he received some hate, the majority of the comments were positive.
One person on Twitter described him as follows: “A clumsy zoomer who contracts HIV and is able to envision a future of doing a few more tests and taking a few pills a day is one of the greatest triumphs of medical science in the history of mankind and we should thank God daily that it happened.
Another person commented, “Such a positive attitude!”
“I’m so proud of you moms, you’re so brave, I love you,” another person added.
‘Thank you for sharing your story.’ said one user.
‘Your energy is amazing Zach! Thank you for sharing your journey with us,” one person commented.
From now on, Zachary will transition from daily videos to weekly updates.