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I came across this amazing post on Facebook the other day and the person will remain anonymous but it tells it like it is. The HIV Stigma is real. People on Grindr ask you if you’re clean and the HIV Community by it’s own people. We have written several times about this HIV+ stigma issue, criminilization, and the cattle-like branding but the post below is a must read:
I’ve been HIV+ since 2010, the past seven years, and it’s been one hell of an emotional rollercoaster. I expect it probably always will be, at least until such a time that an actual cure will present itself. I feel the need to write this post because if I can help anyone else out there who has gone through what I’ve gone through (and continue to go through), I’ll have done my duty as a fellow human being.
Many times I’ve hated myself for how I perceive others to perceive me after I disclosed my status to them. On more than one occasion — quite a few, actually — I’ve felt like nothing more than a walking, talking virus. For those of you who are HIV-, I can’t adequately convey the shame, the amount of hurt, and the dreadful thoughts that go along with such a perception. If you’re HIV+ like me then you’ll know very well the difficulty of conveying this to others, and the feelings I described.
You see, I’ve prided myself on my education on this matter ever since I learned my diagnosis. I thought that with persistence and a lot of persuasive effort, I could eradicate stigma, one person at a time if need be — friends, relatives, hookups, dates, you name it. But sometimes I just couldn’t get through to some people, and I can’t very well blame those I couldn’t get through to for running the other direction after disclosure since prior to my diagnosis I was exactly the same way.
Even knowing how relatively safe HIV+ individuals with undetectable viral loads had become up to that point, I still lost ALL interest in a guy upon learning he was positive. Looking back on the attitude I had then, I know I was oh so very wrong and cruel, and I’ve often felt that acquiring the virus was an apt punishment for the prejudices I had then. For any of you who are negative and continue to harbor this type of attitude, I implore you: challenge this attitude! Please. It is absolutely unwarranted and yes, it’s fucking cruel any way you slice it. There have been times when I didn’t disclose right away and I allowed someone to get to know me, emotionally investing in them (perhaps a little, perhaps a lot), only to be rejected outright, shunned, or reproached for my method and timing of disclosure. Each time, I was bitter with the person and blamed them for what I saw as an egregious lack of education and utter discrimination on their part. The fact is I only had myself to blame because such is the world we live in and I just have to accept that. There are preconceived notions, perceptions, and fears that will take several, several more years — perhaps decades — to dispel; even with proper education. I myself was a perfect example of an individual who was unable to align what he knew with how he felt in that I knew an HIV diagnosis was no longer the bogeyman it once was but I couldn’t overcome my fear of and revulsion towards guys I knew had it anyway. As much as I hate to do it, an upfront disclosure — wearing a neon sign advertising my status, so to speak — is the best way to cull through those who will be prejudiced and those who won’t. The sad thing is the fear we still have in our society of those who are HIV+ is terribly out of proportion with where we are currently with respect to medicine’s insights.
What’s the point of this post? It’s TMI, I’m acutely aware, but I’m sick of hating myself for what I have and I’m tired of letting what I have be who I am as though it’s my identity. We HIV+ people are not walking, talking viruses. Nowadays we can date, fuck, procreate, and do all the things HIV- people can with little to no fear of spreading the virus thanks to massive medical advancements in the past decade or two. As long as we adhere to our successful antiretroviral regimens, we are healthy, virtually noninfectious, and just like anyone else without HIV.
So please, look up the most up-to-date research. Look up the PARTNER study. Women, look up how HIV+ mothers can give birth to healthy negative babies thanks to AZT treatment during pregnancy. Men, look up sperm washing to see that HIV+ dads can indeed father negative children. Nothing has to be closed off to us anymore! Things will only be closed off to us among those who allow it because they can’t conquer their outdated fears and attitudes.
If you can see this, it’s because I hope that through you I can somehow affect change. And for those of you who are positive, at least you can know you’re not alone.