Fear of possible infection impacting stigma
There is no question that one way to reduce HIV stigma in our community is for all negative men to have a scare where they think they might be Poz. Some conversation around my last entry got me thinking about this. Obviously, this is a horrible experience that I would not wish on anyone and would do everything I can to prevent. But the experience itself, when it does happen, definitely impacts the person’s understanding of what it might like to be Poz and what kind of stigma they might experience. How could it not? When you’re in that fear of waiting for test results, you think about the possibility that you might be Poz. Can you tell your employer? Will you lose your job? Can you tell your family or will they disown you? You think back and remember every petty or gossipy thing you ever said about someone else you thought was Poz. You remember how your friends responded to another Poz guy. The list goes on and on and it can’t help but impact you. For most guys who have gone through this situation, the relief at being negative doesn’t diminish the thinking they did and they walk away with an attitude that reduces stigma in our community. It’s a lot to ask but if everyone who has had that experience and has done this kind of emotional thinking could challenge other members of our community when they see stigma, the impact would be huge. It’s a bit like the stories you hear from some Poz guys who say that HIV actually brought some important positive personal growth into their lives and turned them around. If such a negative experience can increase understanding of stigma, that’s positive.