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More Than a Statistic

October 29, 2013

Janine Brignola

Janine Brignola

I am a young, heterosexual, Caucasian woman living with HIV. I am not in the major demographic of people living affected with HIV, or categorized as a "high-risk" group, but does that mean my story is less important?

You don't need me to tell you that there is stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. Because of that stigma, we who live with HIV are often afraid. Rather than uniting to show the world that HIV has a face, we hide and become ashamed for having this "dirty disease." We often hear about the populated areas that are affected with HIV, but we do not hear about the stories of those who are living with HIV in the lesser-affected areas, living in fear of becoming ostracized by our peers, families, friends and by the public in general.

When you go to large urban areas, there are signs, billboards and various other platforms that constantly warn about the dangers of HIV. They warn EVERYONE; whether gay, lesbian, straight, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Middle-Eastern, purple, pink or blue, because EVERYONE may be, and IS affected by this epidemic. Yet when attending seminars or conferences, we only hear about how we need to put funding where the "gays and blacks" are. Why have we not realized that we should treat this as a disease that affects the entire human population?

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A common reaction when I disclose my status to people is "but you're pretty and smart"; or "no way, seriously?" Both comments only reassure me that I need to continue speaking out and informing others because of the ignorance surrounding this disease. I am a young, Caucasian, heterosexual woman living with HIV. To the outside world I am too "normal" looking to be affected, let alone infected with HIV. I so often feel that because I do not fit into the larger demographic of who is "at risk" or who is affected by HIV, people feel that what I have to say is not as pertinent. I feel people do not want to hear about HIV, and that the individuals who work in HIV prevention and education do not feel that my story is as influential. Why? Because I am a straight white woman. Do I need to be someone or something else for the public to feel that what I have to say is important?

We all have a voice, and we all have some issue that is close to our hearts. No matter what it is, no matter who we are, or what demographic we fall into; we are given a voice. Those of us in America especially have a freedom that many do not have -- we owe it to ourselves and to the ones we love to stand up and talk, yell, shout, even scream if that is what it takes. Our voices need to be heard. I talk about HIV because I have it and it affects me and those close to me. Don't wait to talk about your issue.

This article originally appeared on Janine's blog for MTV's "Staying Alive" campaign.

Send Janine an email.

Read Janine's blog HIVchick.

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This article was provided by TheBody.com.
 

Reader Comments:

Comment by: ohiopositive (Georgia) Tue., Nov. 19, 2013 at 4:26 pm EST
Had this exact conversation with someone recently (though I'm male). The low risk victims do get lost in the mix on occassion
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Comment by: Lucie Vogel (Big Spring texas) Tue., Nov. 12, 2013 at 5:17 am EST
I was shocked and sad to hear from my health care professionals it would be best for myself and family not to disclose my status way out here in b.s tx because we might not be able to make friends or even be welcomed into the community which would have been devastating for my hiv neg 6yr old daughter I was diagnosed in 1994 and in 1999 started getting involved and educated becoming pro active Life is not over I became a public speaker in collages churches and functions I also became a member of the HIV and AIDS PLANNING COUNCIL out in california even in jails and prison when I asked the permian basen office in odessa about councils and things they could not tell me there was no information avail no pamphlets flyers for anybody to become apart of as a consumer or non consumer It feels like HIV is every ones dirty little secret and I would like to be able to wear my red ribbon with my pink and yellow one that red is not a death sentence any more than yellow or any other color accept by fear ignorance and education and more I would like to help change that and I don't know anybody yet as I've only been here for 1yr and now that I have got my health back I am well enough to get back in the saddle again but I need help to do that thank God for the internet at least so please if you have any suggestions I would be so grateful no one should be alone or die alone no matter thier ethnicity bacground sexual prefrence HIV DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE and neither does God and our sweet Savior Jesus God bless
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