I’d like to openly muse about exactly what is stigma. It seems to be discussion that needs to be revisited over and over again.
I’ve had friends make the statement “I’ve had no stigma therefore it doesn’t exist, that’s something of twenty years ago”. That always shocked me.
Why is it that I am able to see it if even if my experience of and out and out rejection has been extremely rare? Maybe that’s due to the fact that I’ve lived almost half my life out in the media in a way that very few do. Overwhelmingly I’ve been supported and have had great experiences engaging with the media.
Nonetheless, the feeling of vulnerability when living in a city of 108,000 people and having just done a three-day media blitz is a feeling that few people living with HIV have had. Now I’m back in the media, writing for Fab, a blog, a mirror site on Gay Guide Toronto, and this campaign. I’m feeling exposed again.
You don’t know that feeling, but just imagine that you have no idea if every person you meet in a day knows what about you, and the assumption has to be made that your status and everything is out there.
Yes, having something in the public will lend to that feeling, but putting HIV out there like that is completely different. It’s different because it is HIV, and thus carries the baggage of stigma.
This says to me that stigma is much more than a “no thanks” because of ones sero status.
To anyone who is HIV positive and claims stigma is a thing of the 80s I’d have to ask you the following: Does everyone in you life know you are positive? And if not why? Do any or all of your work colleagues? Does your entire family including aunts and uncles, cousins? Would you be prepared to be out full name in the public writing about your experiences living with HIV? Could you even leave your name on a site like this outing yourself with your full name?”
If there were absolutely no HIV stigma out there, then why would any of this be a problem?
This campaign confronts us as Canadians who believe we are so polite that stigma and discrimination no longer exists.
We state preferences, it sounds really “nice” we say Clean UB2, where’s there harm in that, I’m just trying to protect myself. No blacks, Asians, fems or fatties. Well I can’t help what I am attracted to.
In the end you will like or dislike, do or not do what you desire. But it is all about how you do it, and communicate it, and treat others in the process. This seems to be one of the huge points that is being missed.
That, and infection rates are going up with gay men, so whatever your protection strategy, if it’s one with emphasis on preferences than behaviour, you’ll probably be another statistic.