- Missouri’s Zachary Willmore has shared how HIV is affecting his life
- The 19-year-old posts videos to his TikTok daily describing how he feels
- He is trying to end the stigma surrounding the disease
A 19-year-old recently diagnosed with HIV has revealed how the disease has changed his life through candid videos that follow him from the day he was tested to the day he started medication.
Zachary Willmore, from Missouri, is going viral on TikTok for his daily vlogs that started 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 teen revealed he felt “dirty” when he first contracted the disease, but after starting medication, he has developed a sense of freedom by publicly sharing his journey .
Zachary’s first video was posted on Feb. 17. Although he recorded his videos as he went through everyday life with illness, he didn’t start posting until a week after he “found out.”
He captioned his first-ever video on the subject: “It’s Friday, February 17th. I am 19 years old. And yesterday I found out that I have HIV.’
The incurable disease Zachary will live with for the rest of his life: what is HIV and how is it treated?
- 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 fluids. Currently there is no cure for the disease, but there are medications that can help people with HIV control and prevent its progression.
- Without medication, HIV can lead to AIDS, a chronic and potentially life-threatening condition, within eight to ten weeks.
- Some people with HIV develop flu-like symptoms two to four weeks after they get the virus.
- Symptoms of HIV include fever, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes.
- About 1.2 million people in the country have HIV.
- About 13 percent of them don’t know and have to get tested.
In the first video, the 19-year-old describes the crushing feeling of getting a positive test result back.
“I just feel, honestly, so gross. I wish I could take a big needle and drain all the blood out of my body right now.
“People keep telling me I will get through this. This really feels like the end of the world to me. All I can think about is house sickness forever.
‘I’ll never get over it. I just feel exhausted, emotionally, physically.
“For example, I’ve been 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 cried for the past “12 hours” and then realized his tears “changed something.”
Upon hearing his result, the San Diego State University student flew back home to Missouri to spend time with his loved ones, telling colleagues he was returning home to “mourn the death” of his cat.
In his second video, Zachary revealed that his friends convinced him to “go out,” adding that he was having a lot of fun and realized his life wasn’t over.
“I can still do all my daily things,” he said.
Subsequently, the teen revealed how his friends took to the news. He explained that he had told some close friends that he was returning 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 I was coming home for something medical, they all thought I was terminally ill.
“So when I told them I had HIV, they were genuinely relieved,” he explained.
He revealed that both his friends and parents have been very supportive of him.
He ended the video by 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 about the importance of medications, getting tested, using a condom, and what the disease is.
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 fluids. Currently there is no cure for the disease, but there are medications that can help people with HIV control and prevent its progression.
Without medication, HIV can lead to AIDS, a chronic and potentially life-threatening condition, within eight to ten weeks.
Some people with HIV develop flu-like symptoms two to four weeks after they get the virus. Symptoms of HIV include fever, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes.
Recently, Zachary had an appointment to have his viral load tested, which reveals the amount of virus in an infected person’s blood.
“So a high viral load would run into the millions, and I have a viral load of 11,400, so it’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 teen also said that after being medicated, he started to feel much better and came to terms with the illness by focusing on the joy in his life.
He is making more and more videos to show that those dealing with the disease are not alone.
On his TikTok, he said, “I want to show that it 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, making people embarrassed to have it,” he explained.
While Zachary is using his platform for good, he’s drawn hate from critics who claim he “should endure the emotions” rather than “just put on a show for good content.”
The 19-year-old has also been criticized for being “too happy,” but he noted that he doesn’t take the disease lightly, but wants to show his viewers that it doesn’t have to rule their lives.
He also noted that daily vlogging has helped him “get through the whole process.”
“Seeing my own video vlog is a way of dealing with it,” he explained.
And while he’s gotten some hate, the majority of the comments have been positive.
One person to Twitter described him as, “A mad zoomer getting HIV and imagining a future from a few extra tests and taking a few daily pills is one of the greatest triumphs of medical science in human history and we should pray to God daily thank you that it happened.’
Another person commented, “Such a positive attitude!”
“I am so proud of you mamas, you are so brave, I love you,” another person added.
“Thanks for sharing your story.” said one user.
“Your energy is amazing Zach! Thank you for sharing your journey with us,” said one person.
As of now, Zachary will move from daily videos to weekly updates.