When George Hankers stood blindfolded in Trafalgar Square, brandishing a sign that red “I’M HIV+” in big letters, he wasn’t sure how members of the public would respond. But, he was moved when countless strangers left messages of support and solidarity for him, commending him for his bravery and encouraging him to stay strong.
Hankers’ blindfold is symbolic of his feelings after he was first diagnosed with HIV. He battled with very low self-esteem and felt he’d “been blinded from hope.” But this social experiment has restored his sense of hope.
“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,” says Hankers. “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.”
The video was inspired by a viral social experiment in Finland, in which Janne Antin, who held up a sign saying “I’m HIV positive. Touch me!” The moving video — which showed countless strangers hugging Antin — was viewed by more than 6 million people.