Last week I thought long and hard about the reason why someone would get a bio-hazard tattoo on their body, and then I asked myself why I would get one. I decided I would get a Biohazard tattoo not because I wanted to feel better about myself being HIV positive, but it was because I felt for the people that couldn't be open about their status. There are many reasons why a person cannot be open about their status: it could be because of their family, friends, partner/s, fear of persecution, death, etc. But a lot of these reasons come from stigma. Stigma of how one is treated when being open about their HIV status is very much alive and well. I got this tattoo for those mentioned above to help fight against HIV stigma.
I'm not proud to be HIV positive, but I'm proud that I can be open about my status and stand up to the faces of adversity. This is my part that I can do and I'm not ashamed that I did it. There are many activists that do not like the idea of this tattoo and that is okay, but know that I did this not for myself but for others who cannot be open about their HIV status. Also I feel that doing this does open up the room for discussion. From what I hear from others that have this very tattoo representing their HIV positive status, it actually opens up people to dialog about HIV and about their own status. I also feel that people asking questions about HIV will better help with education. I wear the tattoo but the tattoo does not wear me.
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Justin B. Terry-Smith may be one of the most public African Americans living with HIV: He has his own blog and Web site, and he's even on YouTube. And who can blame him? Only 30, he already has an incredible story to tell. Justin admits he used to live "a very dangerous life," but since his diagnosis three years ago, the former heavy drinker and drug user has turned his life around.
Photo credit: Don Harris
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