It takes a lot of courage to share a medical diagnosis with someone. Even more to stand in the middle of London with a sign declaring yourself to be HIV-positive.
But George Hankers, a 22-year-old who has been HIV-positive since he was 19, wanted to change the negative stigmas associated with the diagnosis and bring more awareness and support to those who are living with the disease.
In a video produced by Shape History, a creative company that seeks to amplify social change through inspiring campaigns, Hankers stands in London's Trafalgar Square blindfolded and holding a sign that reads "I'm HIV-positive, write your messages of positivity."
"The mission was to see if the general public would be sympathetic toward someone with HIV or whether there would be a lot of questions and debate around the issue," Alex Thompson-Armstrong, the head of communications at Shape History, told The Huffington Post. But Londoners' responses to Hankers' sign were even more heartwarming than he'd initially hoped.
Hankers told Mashable that he wasn't sure what to expect from the experiment, but rather than the fear and uncertainty that often still dominates relationships and interactions with those who are HIV-positive, strangers left notes of encouragement and inspiration.
"Your bravery speaks volumes," one woman wrote.
"It doesn't matter who you are, or what you have, it's what you do."
"We're all with you buddy. Keep smiling."
"It gets better, trust me," one man wrote before giving Hankers a hug. When Hankers removed his blindfold to read the notes, he was visibly emotional at the messages of support from individuals he had never even seen.
"The sense of unity I had after the experiment was very heartwarming — people would touch my hand or reach out and give me a hug," Hankers told Mashable. "It made me want to take off the blindfold and not be sheltered from their generosity. It really goes to show that there is more comfort out there for people living with HIV than we initially think."
To learn about a recent advancement in HIV treatment, watch the video below.