- September 27, 2013
Post submitted by Bryce Romero, HRC Consumer Marketing Coordinator
Numbers. That’s what we HIV positive folks and our health advocates are always analyzing. Every day, if it’s not a CD4 count or a viral load, it’s our cholesterol levels or our bone mineral density test results. These numbers in essence are the permanent indicators of our success and our long-term health goals. However, I’m not here today to talk about numbers, rather words.
Last year, on this blog, I came out as an HIV-positive gay man and People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWH) advocate while also challenging our readership to start a dialogue about HIV/AIDS and HIV-related stigma. In that year, I’ve shared my story countless times and met a countless number of brave individuals who have chosen to become advocates themselves. To say that this is the beginning of something larger and something more transformative would be an understatement; but, I’m given pause by the prevalence of one word in these dialogues- stigma.
As a gay man born during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, I wouldn’t have ever guessed that, nearly 30 years later, the issues, the stigma and the undue suffering would still exist for so many members of our community. Online and in-person it seems people just can’t quite escape the notion that HIV-positive individuals aren’t something other than dirty, diseased and/or unworthy of attention and love. This notion is promulgated by prominent personalities like Pat Robertson -- who believes I wear a special ring just to infect my partners -- and that OkCupid date -- who decided that he couldn’t handle the ‘ickyness’ of a sero-discordant relationship, as he asked, “What would his mother say? What would my mother say?”
I’m here to say to Pat and to that OkCupid date: "HIV didn’t kill me. HIV didn’t kill my capacity to love, my ability to feel or my desire to share in the rich experiences in life. And, for the record, my mother is my fiercest health advocate.”
So, a year later, I say to you all: “Thoughts become words. Words become actions. ” If we’re to truly turn the tide, we must think carefully about the power of words. Will they will be positive or will they be negative. Only we have the power to choose.