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PLWHIV Can Shine Light on Stigma

In our community, the negative stigma of living with HIV can truly be hurtful and isolating, especially when experienced from those who are closest to us. The more and more I think about the root of negative stigma, I keep coming back to the word: fear.

The stigma and fear connection

People fear disease

We fear disease and so when we see something or someone associated with it, we ostracized them. The disease and the person become one and the same. It is unfortunate that HIV is highly stigmatized even to this day. Once HIV was relegated to being a "gay disease", the public cared a little less about the virus affecting their daily lives.

Fear causes people to hide or not seek help

It also caused people to hide and to be ashamed, which further complicated our ability to fight HIV. So many didn’t know their status out of that same fear. In POC communities this is the case and I can imagine the same being true in smaller rural communities.

Recognizing progress & strength of the HIV community

As time has progressed, better medications have emerged and people are more educated about HIV. That took time and concentrated effort by public health officials, government, and most importantly communities to get the message across. We now have ways to think about prevention and access to testing and treatment when needed.

Still, with all of this in place, we actively take measures to ensure that HIV infection rates always trend downward. It has taken three decades to really get a handle on HIV and, for that effort, this community has proven its resolve.

A path forward

It gives me hope that, in the midst of this present moment, we will find a path forward. We can learn valuable lessons from the mistakes we as a society made with how we handled HIV. We can dismiss fear and feel empowered to do things we do with social distancing and a face mask. If I know I can protect myself and others, I feel compelled to do it.

Change and adaptability are okay

It has to be acknowledged that this is life-changing in a big way. What I have learned from your stories and comments on H-I-V.net is that change is okay. Adapting is okay. It’s not what was in the plan. And each person’s story reveals the process of them getting tested, treatment, and the ups and downs that come with a lifestyle change or pain from this condition.

Through these changes, this community stands tall and shows us what it’s like to support one another during difficult transitions.

Finding support through community

I believe that all Americans can look at this community of thriving individuals living with HIV and see that there is no need to live in fear of disease. In all our health conditions, it has taken a team of health professionals, family and our own will power to see us through.

In the face of this pandemic, I truly find assurance in community. Through our lives we create change, and telling our stories is how we shine a light on how we can get through tough times together. In unity, we can fight any disease.

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