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Body Image and the Physical Side Effects of Being HIV+

By B. Osten

August 3, 2012

Being gay in the mid-'80s, body image was a priority. Working out at the gym was not just a regimen, it was a lifestyle. Looking good for Gay Pride was the ultimate goal. Back then, it was far less commercial and more of a social event for the LGBT community. A sense of belonging and emancipation from the stigma of AIDS. A safe haven for at least one weekend out of the year.

My partner and myself are a dying breed (pardon the pun). Throwbacks from the '80s. Our fashion changes with the times, but our muscular physiques somewhat remain the same. We both take pride in our appearance and work hard at it. We still enjoy taking our shirts off while dancing at clubs and Gay Pride events.

While dancing with my partner at this year's West Hollywood Gay Pride, someone behind us speaking in a loud enough voice for us to hear, commenting on our (slight, but evident) buffalo humps to his companion. Knowing that they themselves were probably HIV+ from the telltale signs of lipodystrophy, we stood our ground. Now, whether it was intentional or not for us to hear, we didn't allow it to bring us down and continued to have a wonderful time dancing the night away with our shirts left off.

My partner and myself are far from being vain. We are only trying to age gracefully. But, it's a constant struggle to maintain somewhat of a seamless body image. It's becoming more and more difficult not to be publicly picked out of the crowd because of the physical side effects of the virus and HIV meds.

Go figure, just when I'm finally at a place in my life where I'm comfortable in my own skin. How ironic is that?

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See Also
More Personal Stories of Gay Men With HIV


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Positive Thinking

B. Osten

B. Osten

I've been living with HIV for 26 years. I volunteer at various AIDS organizations in my community in the day. At night I like to spend my time at the observatory. I couldn't tell you the names of all the planets offhand, or what a black hole is for sure. But, there isn't a day that goes by I haven't looked up at the night sky and thanked my lucky stars I'm still alive to enjoy it.

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