Posts Tagged ‘dating someone hiv positive’

12/07/2014

By Benjamin Di’Costa

IMG_0297It’s World AIDS Day, and researchers, advocates and patients are taking measure of efforts to combat the spread of HIV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that of the estimated 1.2 million Americans who have HIV, 86 percent are aware of their status. However, just 40 percent are receiving medical care for the virus. One barrier to treatment could be the persistent stigma that many HIV-positive young people face. Here’s a relevant scene (and one that’s not uncommon in this, the Year of the Young Advocate):

World AIDS Day 2014… And here I am a  young gay male—urban, professional, culturally and politically savvy—walking down the street in the “Gayborhood” called Wilton Manors here in Fort Lauderdale. It was a beautiful day and not a cloud in sight.  in which it’s common to see men walking hand in hand to the local Starbucks, or making their way to their morning workouts when out of nowhere I hear from across the street shout, ” You are not worth life and you should die!” says the middle aged gay male.

Being a person who faced discrimination for being gay I just blew it off and kept walking down the street when another younger gay male mumbles under his breath “Dirty Faggot”. Now at this point I was taken back by this statement being that I was in a LGBT neighborhood where pretty much every lifestyle was accepted. What was it about me just walking down the street that caused such negative reactions from the community?

I look down and realize that I was wearing my No Shame in Being HIV+ Shirt from RiseUptoHIV and then it all hit me at once that this in fact had nothing to do with my sexual orientation but was solely about me wearing a shirt with HIV+ written on it? As I continue into a local Starbucks that morning and then notice the countless stares and whispers that were coming from patrons enjoying their morning cup of coffee.

Here I am a young 24 year old gay male who actually doesn’t live with HIV but I am in encountering countless acts of HIV stigma within my own community. Up until this point I had never understood what it felt like to be stigmatized and when I sat down and really reflected on what just happened a wave of emotion just hit me, I realized that at the end of the day I can take off this shirt and the stigma ends but what about those who are living with HIV? Those living with HIV don’t get to choose when the stigma comes and when it goes it is something that is commonly faced within the Gay and Bisexual community particularly minority communities.

So you may be asking, What now? Where do we go from here? 

There are many ways we can all fight HIV stigma in our lives and in our community, whether you are HIV-positive or HIV-negative:

  • Break the silence surrounding HIV stigma in our community. Talk about your experiences, fears and concerns about getting HIV or transmitting HIV with friends, a counselor, or a fuck buddy.
  • Learn how to better deal with and react when a guy tells you he has HIV.
  • Take responsibility for the prevention of HIV. The prevention of HIV is a responsibility that all gay men share – HIV-positive, HIV-negative and HIV status unknown.
  • Challenge attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that contribute to HIV stigma. Don’t be a silent witness to it when it happens around you.
  • Avoid using language that overtly stigmatizes others.
  • Treat guys with HIV as you would treat anyone else: with respect, empathy, and compassion.
  • Get informed about how to protect yourself from HIV and be confident in that knowledge. We know how to prevent HIV.
  • If you have difficulty playing safe, take charge of your sexual health and get the help you need to ensure you do not get infected with or transmit HIV.

Are there other things you can think of to fight HIV stigma?

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And remember Positivity Is Everything! 

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KenLikeBarbie and Patrick Ingram behind the scenes photo shoot for AIDS.gov (and no folks this was just for play-both are not together).

[This was brought to you by one of our guest contributors who wanted to share their story.  Want to share your story then click here!]

    If one were to ask me six months ago my thoughts on being in a relationship with someone who was HIV positive, I would have responded that it wasn’t an option. From a young age, I always imagined myself having the ‘fairytale’ ending. Well, the fairytale that always seems to be portrayed in media, at least. The handsome, well-groomed, great mannered gentlemen; three kids, two dogs, luxury cars, a four-story house with a green carpet of grass…all concealed by the security of our bordering white picket fence. For years, I’ve been daydreaming of the fantasy. Being a gay black male, however, my parents found it necessary to remind me that life was going to be hard enough considering I would already have those ‘three strikes’ against me. With the silent whisper in my mind, I made it a point to never involve myself, or get caught up with something that could potentially put my fantasy lifestyle in farther reach. As simple minded as it may seem, I always assumed that contracting HIV would be equivalent to putting a loaded gun to my head and pulling the trigger. Death to the luxurious lifestyle; a suicide to ravish reality. An HIV negative and HIV positive persons could never coincide together, I would tell myself. Looking back, I realize that it was a mere lack of education and knowledge that brought me to this elementary conclusion.

            It wasn’t until three months ago that my ideologies began to quickly change. I met this amazing guy who seemed to have all of the qualities that I was searching for, and countless more. He made it a point to be very open and honest about his lifestyle, and quickly shared his status of being HIV positive. It may seem odd, but the mere fact that he was willing to be so open and honest shortly after our introduction was very reassuring to me. Just in that one statement, he showed more self-confidence than I could ever hope to have. It was in that instance that I knew it was time to be more open minded, trustworthy, and take a chance on love…a chance on true happiness. A few weeks later, it was apparent that he was becoming a much-needed positive – no pun intended – influence in my life. He was patient with me, showing great interest and care in my well-being, as well as his own. This allowed me the time to take into consideration all that would entail in being involved in a sero-discordant relationship. Engaging in conversation and activity with someone who was HIV positive, which once seemed like a detrimental mask, was only a small blemish – per se – in realizing that my real life fairytale was coming true.

With a quick press of the fast forward button, I am grateful to say that he is still in my life; with hopes that he will remain forever. Being an advocate for HIV awareness, he has educated me tremendously on the pressures of living with HIV. While we have not yet had any backlash of negative stigma surrounding our relationship, I feel the time may be approaching for me to be open with my close friends and family about our sero-discordant relationship. A part of me still feels a sense of anxiety, wondering how others will view us, or quickly pass judgment. I contemplate on a daily basis over when is the ‘right’ time to share the news. But knowing that I have him in my corner to help weed out the negative opinions of others is making this internal battle all the more easier. When I look at him, I don’t see or think about HIV; I’m simply reminded of all the characteristics that make him a wonderful individual. I know this is only the beginning of the journey, but I couldn’t think of anyone else I would rather take this adventure with.

Moving forward, we have made it a point to maintain open communication in all aspects of our relationship. Staying on top of one another about getting tested regularly, maintaining healthy eating habits, and staying active are towards the top of the list. We have also been discussing methods of practicing safer sex. Aside from the frontrunner of condom use, PrEP has been a big part of the discussion. If used correctly, PrEP can greatly reduce the risk of contracting HIV. After recent discussion with my doctor, as well as, educating myself on the costs and benefits of using PrEP, I think this will be a major benefit for our relationship. My only advice for those who find themselves in a similar circumstance is to keep an open mind, but be honest with yourself about the struggles of the future. Educate yourself, as well as others, because with knowledge, each day is another step forward in winning the battle of the HIV epidemic. Be kind to others, as you never know another individuals feats and triumphs. And finally, stay humble and be fortunate for all that you have been blessed with.IMG_0225