Most likely the first place to start is why do I feel the need to put my face out into the public as an HIV-positive man, and consequently joining this campaign on HIV prevention and stigma.
Ever since the beginning of this epidemic, due to the stigma, people hid their status. At the time it was understandable, people were afraid to work with us, shake our hands, or even let us play with their kids. The acting of eating off of someone’s dinner plate was enough to cause angst.
Over time, as people became educated, stigma and discrimination morphed into other forms. Generally speaking those who were HIV negative felt free to express their opinions while those who were positive were generally accepted to just stay in the shadows of the sidelines. Individual acts of activism were required on the part of HIV positive men to go public and challenge stigma and discrimination within and outside our community.
The Gay Men’s HIV Prevention campaign provides a forum in which we can create a dialogue between the great sero-divide, which has been widening over the years. When I use the term sero, I mean HIV status, such as serostatus is HIV status, for example.
I have personally found that respectful discussion of the issues that affect us all can facilitate a greater understanding and empathy on both sides, especially for me. We do not spend enough time getting to know each other, and quickly make judgments based on limited experience.
Having said all of this, I invite everyone to join me for a conversation during this campaign. We have a lot to share with one another. What are your issues? Is it disclosure? Is it that you’ve met someone and really like them, found out he is positive and feel anxious, but want to still see him? Is it that you’ve had so much loss in your life that the thought of dating someone positive brings back too much baggage and you can’t do it?
Personally I look forward to your discussions. This is the first time I’ve really had a forum, other than my blog, to exchange ideas. This is a great opportunity to bridge the sero-divide.