Marshall Titus: Changing The Conversation About HIV Through His Music

By Kevin Richards

Singer / songwriter Marshall Titus likes to create music that has broad appeal. More importantly, when he creates a song he needs the lyrics to resonate with richness and meaning. To that effect, Titus has teamed up with Director John Gress to use one of his songs to change the way we think about HIV. The collaboration started at the end of July when Gress called Titus and asked him if he had any music that he could use for a public service announcement he was producing for an HIV event called “A Day With HIV in America.” The nationally distributed Positively Aware Magazine created the campaign. When Titus played the song, both of them were blown away by how much the lyrics and music worked with the campaign. Through this initial collaboration, Gress then got inspired to create a music video for “I Will.” It all snowballed from there.

Within two weeks Titus and Gress had worked out a storyline for the video, selected the actors and scouted out the locations for the shoot. The project was shot and edited in just five days. The results are powerful. The “I Will” music video addresses important social issues in the gay community that are not being discussed and puts them out front and center in a very impactful way.

According to Titus, based in Chicago, the music video “I Will” is about finding the courage to be true to oneself in the face of a personal challenge. In the music video, the personal challenge faced by the protagonist is an unexpected HIV diagnosis. The shock of the positive result leads to a search for self-acceptance as well as the love and support of friends. Self-acceptance leads to a deepening of his relationships and a broader understanding of his own life and the people in it. Titus feels that whether we are HIV positive or not, we need to treat one another with greater dignity and move past our fears. For Titus personally, “’I Will’ relates the idea that I choose to live my life in FAITH as opposed to FEAR.”

According to the songwriter, fear is the opposite of courage. People aren’t being honest about being afraid of getting tested for HIV or becoming involved with someone who is HIV positive. Titus states, “I think people are still operating out of a mindset from 30 years ago. They don’t see the progress that has been made in the treatment and stopping the spread of HIV. I don’t know how the song will change people’s perceptions but hopefully it will open up the conversation around HIV disclosure and the importance of getting tested on a regular basis.”

For Titus, the experience of working with Gress on this project has been a major turning point for him personally and artistically. He smiles when he says, “there was me before this project and me after this project. Just being involved in this has made me grow and evolve into something more.”

“Music is the universal language, and I intend to speak to the world though my music.”

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