According to a 2006 study from EuroHIV, Portugal has the second highest rate of newly diagnosed cases of HIV in Europe. (Among the fifty-two countries surveyed, only Estonia has more cases.) In percentages, Portugal compares with countries like Russia and Ukraine. The World Health Organization says in a report that “…available data indicates that [Portugal] has the highest HIV incidence rate in Western Europe…”

Sixty percent of cases are heterosexuals, over 50 years old. This can be explained by the nonexistent campaigns for different age groups and social classes, and a longer sexual life in the recent years for older people.

My work tries to show this reality and alert people. I make portraits of ordinary people who could be us, since they don’t see themselves as belonging to a risk group. They simply made the mistake of not wearing a condom in a sexual relation, probably because they didn’t know about the danger of HIV, probably because they trusted their partner, or because they thought that it only happens to others, prostitutes, drug addicts and homosexuals. They were wrong. We are wrong if we think like this.

Miguel Ribeiro Fernandes has worked as a freelance photographer since 1999. He lives in Lisbon, Portugal.

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