Model sues after seeing herself in an HIV positive advertisement

Avril Nolan, 25, a Brooklyn resident, alleged through her lawyer Wednesday that Getty Images, a photo agency, sold a photograph of her to the New York State Division of Human Rights without her approval, reports the NY Daily News. The state agency then took out an ad in the April 3 edition of amNew York that featured the photo of Nolan standing in front of a graffiti-covered storefront, along with the messages: “I am positive (+)” and “I have rights.”

Nolan charges that the ad forced her to have awkward conversations with her employer, friends and “potential romantic partners,” according to her suit against Getty. She is seeking $450,000 in damages. “She was mortified,” said Nolan’s lawyer, Erin Lloyd. “It has caused a lot of anxiety.”

Although Nolan's argument about the use of her photo without her permission is a legitimate legal one, it exacerbates the stigmatization of people living with HIV/AIDS. If in fact Nolan's photo was used illegally, that alone is enough to justify her claim against Getty and the photographer. However, Nolan's case has worried advocates for those living with HIV and AIDS. 

Seth Rosen, Managing Director of Development, Communications & Marketing at the Gay Men's Health Crisis, the first and longest running HIV/AIDS organization, commented: "Setting aside the legal issues, the response of the model sadly points to the continuing stigma attached to people living with HIV and AIDS".

The advances in the public's understanding haven't come as far as the medical treatment of HIV and AIDS, so the stigma continues to add injustice and injury to the challenge of dealing with such a serious chronic illness. People living with HIV face an inordinate amount of unfair stigma in their daily lives. At a time when Nolan could have taken an opportunity to stand in solidarity with those living with HIV/AIDS, she just furthers the stigma. And that's anything but model behavior.