Skip directly to content



In this talk, Jeremiah Johnson brings into question the role of fear and shame in the prevention and treatment of HIV. Through his personal journey with HIV, Johnson explains the stigma surrounding the disease and how he successfully changed, through advocacy, the Peace Corp's policy enabling HIV positive people to serve. Johnson teaches us that health campaigns should be designed using positive messaging, instead of fear, to promote safe behavior and to conquer the epidemic.

Jeremiah Johnson is a recent graduate of the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health. His primary interest is in the effects of HIV-related stigma on people living with HIV and those most at risk for transmission. Diagnosed with HIV in 2008, Jeremiah has experienced consequences from stigma and discrimination firsthand. Serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer at the time of his diagnosis, the Peace Corps dismissed Jeremiah when he tested positive. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, he later changed Peace Corps' policy to allow positive volunteers to continue their service. Since then, Jeremiah has continued to raise awareness around issues and policies that contribute to the spread of HIV and negatively impact the lives of those living with the virus. For two years, he worked as a case manager and prevention specialist at the Northern Colorado AIDS Project. There, he learned that there is still much work to be done to improve the quality of life for all people living with HIV. Most recently, Jeremiah completed his practicum at the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS where he worked on a nationwide study to quantify and describe HIV-related stigma and discrimination in the US.