A Life Giving Label
The labels and names we give ourselves help define who we are and how we express ourselves to others. Labels can be good things. They can help us navigate through life.
How labels help us navigate life
I might actually find people who share my life experiences or world outlook through our associations with the labels resonate with. Labels also have limitations.
Labels only get at the surface of an individual. It doesn't appreciate our changing moods, thoughts, and actions. A label can be temporary or permanent. It can inspire positive self-affirmation or be reductive and dull.
Labels and our serostatus
When talking about HIV, we often reduce ourselves to our test results - “I’m neg” or “I’m poz” - instead of "I had a negative test result" or "I am a person living with HIV."
Words really do matter and can change the way people perceive themselves in different contexts. When we reduce ourselves to our status, it creates a feeling of shame and confusion. I can imagine the 'HIV positive' label could make one feel like they failed a test or that they are blemished in some sense.
We are more than our perceived faults
In fact, one piece of information about one’s health can’t possibly sum up the beauty of human life. We have to embrace a larger human ethic that encompasses more than our perceived faults.
Recognizing humanity in people living with HIV
Living is a powerful word. It implies action, movement, breath, and life! Living with HIV is a life of integrity, truthfulness, overcoming obstacles, and thriving in whatever vocations we wish to pursue.
Person first language in scientific research
I recently have been coming across the term "people or persons living with HIV" (PLWHIV) in research studies and it really is inspiring to recognize the humanity of people who contribute their time to research.
It recognizes their humanity. It affirms that the virus is manageable. And that people are transcending their HIV status to live full lives that are fruitful and beautiful.
Labels that affirm the life we are living
So when considering our labels, we should always consider if they affirm the life we are living. If not, it’s time to find a new label. We can make our own labels and change them if we want. So why not opt for the one that most aligns with the truth of your lived experience?
When we get people resonating with the meaning of living with HIV, people start to consider matters outside of doctor’s visits and can start to see that PLWHIV exist in the community, have jobs, responsibilities, loves, interests, and hobbies that make them unique individuals.
What are some positive labels that you would use to describe yourself? In order to combat stigma, we can act on the offense and choose labels that align with our truth that no one can deny.
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