I have been asked this question recently by several friends of mine as well as some that I communicate with daily on social media. Why is it that I am so open when so many people are private about their status and keep it in “the closet” so to say. I think it is a very important question for anyone who is open about their status or consider themselves an HIV activist to reflect on. Are you doing this for the right reasons? Are you open about your status for the right motivations? Is it really something meant to help others or is it for selfish objectives? I don’t think anyone wants to be known for being HIV +, including myself, if I had my choice I would rather stay quiet about it however due to rising HIV infections there is obviously a disconnect somewhere along the line that is still resulting in people being infected. I want to play my part in helping curb this epidemic and whatever it is that I have to do to accomplish this, I will get done. Wether it be through blogs/video logs/FB posts there is no reason with the current knowledge we have about HIV/AIDS that infections should be on the rise. I believe there is a big difference between reading about a virus in a textbook and seeing a live breathing human being that is putting a face to the virus.
I remember what it was like before I was diagnosed and the ignorant/stigmatizing attitude that I had towards HIV. In my mind it always happened to someone else but never someone like myself. I want to reach people who are in this same mindset to let them know where that kind of thinking will lead someone. It will cause a person to take risky chances with unprotected sex and possibly contract an STD, including HIV/AIDS. It is a common attitude that many have towards this disease, to be honest before I was diagnosed I didn’t know one person who was out about being positive. Though I might have known many who were positive but just never got tested. I never applied what I learned from sex education or human sexuality to my own life because in my eyes it was not relevant. I remember when I had the flare up with my leg & necrotizing fasciitis, I went into the hospital and overheard the doctor talking about how my white blood cell counts were not normal. To me at that time I thought I was going to be diagnosed with HIV, however, it was due to my body fighting the infection raging in my leg unrelated to HIV. It wouldn’t be until 2 years later that I would be diagnosed with the virus. I remember in sex education they had two people come into the classroom, one who was a transgendered female and another a gay male, both HIV +. That furthered my thinking even more that this is not going to happen to me. Since my story is a little different than the norm here in the USA, I want to let people know that it is possible to contract the virus regardless of race, sexual orientation, or socio economic status.
In addition there are so many people today that cannot speak up about their status or put a face to this virus for one reason or another. It is a very personal decision that one has to make and I personally have chosen to take that path. Wether it be due to an employer, fear of disowning by family, fear of violence or deportation, millions are living with this virus in silence. I am very fortunate that I live in a country where I can speak freely and am in a position where I face no repercussion for my actions of stating that I am HIV +. I want to be a voice for those that cannot speak up or choose not to because as I stated earlier, a face to this condition makes a world of difference.
HIV/AIDS has never been just been a “gay only” disease and it never will be. The gay community has been one of the most active communities when it comes to this virus and fought so that others might be able to live with this virus. Due to this many have branded the LGBT community with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Without the brave actions of so many in the 1980’s, I would not be here right now. The treatment that is now available came to light due to the insistence of a group of activists, male and female, that would not let the government simply ignore millions of people dying just because many of them happened to be LGBT. Though there are many HIV/AIDS activist today that are LGBT you hardly see anyone in the heterosexual community speaking up about the virus, until now. As we know world wide more heteros have this virus than any other group, not that it is a competition to see who contracts it more, however it is important to note that millions of heteros are affected by this virus. In some of my previous blogs I have wrote how HIV is almost non-existent when it comes to the straight community and is only talked about in certain instances. I want to change the attitude that my community has about this virus, it is here to stay and can affect anyone of us. Here in the US the statistics might be different, but don’t let that fool you, there are many heteros all over the US living with it wether it be openly or in silence.
Since there is a major stigma still of this being a gay virus then many who are straight feel there is no place for them to be an activist or open about their status. They feel that it is not their cause to carry, infection rates in the US among heteros aren’t as drastically rising as those of MSM, however, even 1 infection is far too many with the amount of knowledge that we have. Part of the reasons that I am an activist is I want to debunk the stigma that this doesn’t affect the straight community, I am living proof that it does. Yes it is harder for me to reach a certain group of youth or people due to my sexual orientation such as those who are LGBT because they will not be able to relate 100 % to my story. There are some similarities and I think it is important that we find what we have in common rather than look for differences. However likewise as I was a young straight man listening to a trans woman and gay male talk to me about HIV, it did not sit well with me. I felt like I could not connect with that person because our sexual orientation was so different and due to the preconceived notions I already had about the virus, it was like talking to a wall. As a straight man I have the opportunity to reach many in mainstream America who are not LGBT and maybe think the same way that I used to before being diagnosed. If I can reach at least one of them and say hey “I am a 24 year old, white, straight, male who contracted this virus through unprotected sex with a female, this is my life and this is what I go through” I feel I can make a major impact.
Regardless of someone is open or closed about their status HIV/AIDS needs to be a subject that is talked about more. Wether it be myself sharing my story or a brother/sister of mine who is LGBT sharing their experience, we are all in this fight together. I believe I have a different perspective to bring to the table and can reach a different group of people that might have never really took a moment to consider the virus, until they heard my story. I feel I have a duty to share my story with others in the ultimate goal to encourage others to get educated, tested, and always use protection to prevent others from ending up in the same position that I am in. There is a definite lack of education about HIV/AIDS, especially in the straight community and as a person living with this virus every single day, I need to share my experience. It helps me cope as someone living with the virus and hopefully it can help someone think twice before deciding to have unprotected sex.
I am an HIV activist because I want to remove the stigmatizing/ignorant attitude many in mainstream America have about HIV, I want to be a voice for those that cannot speak up about their status, I want to help others get educated/tested/promote protection, it helps me personally cope with living with this virus, and I want to be a voice for the straight community that this virus can affect anyone. Regardless of who you love or where you come from, HIV is in a community near you. I am here to bring light to the issue and hopefully make an impact in someones life to stop at least one person from ending up positive. I cannot urge people enough to use condoms, it is so important. So many people try to skirt around the condom issue by coming up with other methods of protection when scientifically latex protection proves the most effective method to prevent transmission. Love yourself enough to wrap it up, learn from me, it is worth it. Being an HIV activist to me is about making a difference in the community, something I hope that I am continually doing.
As always thanks for reading and check out my supporter http://www.positivelite.com which is Canada’s Online HIV/AIDS magazine. There are many links to very resourceful and helpful articles as well as other bloggers/activist like myself who are speaking up for the cause. We have a long way to go in this battle however we are surely making a dent and I thank positive lite for joining me in our unified mission of an HIV/AIDS free generation.
Until next time. If you have any questions regarding HIV/AIDS please feel free to email me and I will answer to the best of my ability. As always thanks for reading PozitiveHope. Please check me out at the links below and subscribe to my new youtube channel.
Stay Healthy & Optimstic
There is hope in being POZ !