I Am a Part of the Community I Serve
Sometimes, I stop and take a good look at my life and realize that I had no clue that HIV would be such a big part of who I am as a person. My HIV prevention work did not start until about 6 years ago after I got diagnosed with HIV.
I am openly HIV positive to my friends, family, coworkers, and even strangers within my community. I knew exposing my status to the world would force me to accept what had happened to me and start to live the most authentic life that I could.
Being openly HIV positive
Being openly HIV positive meant that the community that I am a part of knows about me and is able to ask me questions whenever they needed answers.
There have been many different occasions where individuals who just found out that they are HIV positive reach out to me just to talk. A handful of these times have been through social media and profiles that are private or anonymous without any photos.
Making myself accessible
Whether or not I know who I am talking to or even if it is an anonymous profile, I always make sure to respond with any concerns or questions they may have. I want whoever I am speaking or messaging with to feel comfortable. As someone who is HIV positive, I can understand how scary it can be to disclose to someone, especially if it is the very first person you disclose to.
Open with my status in my personal life
There have been many occasions where, in my personal life, I have tried to use dating apps. On these dating apps, I am able to disclose my HIV status when someone views my profile. I soon realized that HIV was not just a part of my daily professional life but also a part of my personal life.
Of course, individuals who wanted to talk to me on the dating apps would ask me about HIV and my status, but then blank profiles would reach out to me on the apps disclosing their status to me.
It was then I realized that the work I do can go far beyond just my regular job. Individuals online would tell me that they just recently got diagnosed and wanted some navigation around self-acceptance and disclosing to others.
HIV disclosure in public spaces
As much as I enjoy my professional life, I also have a personal life outside of work. Before COVID-19, I use to socialize in West Hollywood a lot. I have had many experiences where I would be out with my friends and an individual would approach me and disclose their status to me. Many of these times I was the first person they disclosed to.
Being there for my community
For a while, I would get nervous when people would disclose to me, especially in a public space because you never know how someone will react. I started to realize that my status and my work life was eventually starting to intertwine with my social life.
That moment is when I realized that I always want to be here for my community because I am a part of the community I serve.
How often does someone offer you unsolicited advice on your health?