Latest World News

Student, 19, details what it’s like living with incurable disease: ‘Scared of the unknown’


When Zach Willmore received an HIV-positive diagnosis in February, he felt like it was the end of the world.

“I really did feel like my life was over in that day,” the 19-year-old San Diego State University student said.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: 19-year-old vlogs about life after HIV diagnosis.

For more Health & Wellbeing related news and videos check out Health & Wellbeing >>

“It’s just so stigmatised when people hear that they have HIV and it’s forever.”

Willmore flew home to Missouri shortly after his diagnosis, seeking comfort in the company of friends and family.

After taking time to process privately, he decided to go public – creating daily updates about living with HIV for his 1.7 million TikTok followers.

Zach Willmore felt like it was the end of the world when he was diagnosed with HIV. Credit: TikTok

“It’s Friday, February 17. I’m 19 years old. And yesterday, I found out that I got diagnosed with HIV,” Willmore said.

“I feel drained emotionally, physically, everything,” he continued, as he put on make-up in the inaugural post of his TikTok video “diary”.

His day-in-the-life videos have amassed millions of views, as he harnesses his social media power to educate others about the auto-immune disease.

He shares 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 said.

“Information is power, so I really wanted to help people understand.”

Willmore says he wants to help people understand what it’s like living with the disease. Credit: TikTok

Although he recorded the videos as he was motioning through day-to-day life, he did not post until a week after his diagnosis, coinciding with when he began to take medication.

Advances in science and technology have allowed people to live with HIV – with the disease undetectable and untransmittable.

“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,” one Twitter user wrote, referring to Willmore’s content.

“And we should give daily thanks to god that it happened.”

Easing stigmas

Many have flooded his comments with praise and affirmations.

“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,” one commenter wrote.

Willmore noted that some have criticised him, saying he’s an attention seeker, in part because of his cheery disposition as he talks about a disease often associated with doom.

“When I seem happy in my videos, it is because I am,” he said.

Willmore says an HIV diagnosis does not preclude living a normal life. Credit: Instagram/ Zach Willmore

He says he doesn’t want people to think he’s taking the disease lightly.

Rather, he wants to highlight that an HIV diagnosis does not preclude living a normal life.

He says he creates the videos to support those living with HIV, who may feel they need to keep their condition a secret.

“There’s so many people who will live with this disease and who are going through that in silence,” he said.

Initially, Willmore said, he was concerned that creating content about his HIV diagnosis would obscure other aspects of his identity and life.

Ultimately, though, he says the videos have felt freeing.

“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,” Willmore said.

‘Work in progress’

He says he wants to show that, contrary to his initial reaction, having an HIV diagnosis is not the end of the world.

After this week, he will be transitioning from daily to weekly video updates.

Still, he says, he has thought about having HIV every day since the diagnosis and gets sad at times.

He says he will be processing the diagnosis for a while.

“The first week after, I really wanted to be over it. I really wanted to be good,” Willmore said.

“I will be OK, but I’m still a work in progress.”

For more engaging lifestyle content, visit 7Life on Facebook.

If you’d like to view this content, please adjust your .

To find out more about how we use cookies, please see our Cookie Guide.

Source: 7News