NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Tuesday is World AIDS Day, and for those with HIV, it’s like living in two parallel pandemics.

CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported on how a local arts charity is reflecting on the annual day of awareness.

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Seven filmmakers from around the world were chosen by New York City’s nonprofit group Visual AIDS to explore the stigma of living with AIDS.

“One of the challenges for me was how to get away from the stereotypes,” one said.

Visual AIDS supports artists and uses their work to get the message out that AIDS still impacts millions globally. Their first dramatic project was back in 1989, when thousands of New Yorkers were dying, but AIDS wasn’t being talked about. The movement was called “A Day Without Art.”

“Galleries actually closed their doors for the day, actually closed the museums. They would in some cases take artwork off the wall, replace it with sign describing what was happening with the AIDS crisis,” said Visual AIDS Executive Director Esther McGowan.

The Guggenheim wrapped its museum in a black shroud, representing all the art that would never be seen by those who wouldn’t survive.

Three decades later, HIV continues to be a major public health crisis — 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with it today.

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Jorge Bordello, 38, found out he was HIV positive three years ago in a routine check.

“It was a total shock,” he said. “It became full-time work, living with HIV.”

Bordello set out to make a film not about dying, but about surviving. He draws a parallel between COVID and HIV. There is still no cure for either. They both affect certain populations more than others. But, unlike COVID, he said AIDS is taboo, which stunts research and treatment.

“If HIV was airborne or if a president could catch it, we would have already a cure,” Bordello said.

“We think about the difference. In the early days of the AIDS crisis the Reagan administration didn’t even talk about it. Many thousands of people had to die before it was even mentioned,” McGowan said. “Whereas with COVID, it’s something that is affecting everyone, including presidents who are becoming ill and openly discussing the fact that they became ill. There is not the stigma.”

AIDS advocates say a vaccine for COVID-19 is being rushed through way faster than treatment for HIV ever was.

To keep AIDS a priority, the nonprofit continues to use art to fight, with bold public messages that AIDS is ongoing.

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