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Killing HIV Stigma in the LGBTQ Community

December 13, 2013

I have touched on this subject before but I feel passionate about it and I think it is something that really needs to be discussed more in the GLBTQ community. We all talk about erasing the stigmas related to HIV and how people need to be educated on the subject, which I fully support and believe in, and also in the GLBTQ community we talk about wanting equality and to just be treated like the rest of humanity, which I also support and agree with.

BUT ...

We can not erase stigmas or be treated as equal until we start treating each other as equals. I can not tell you how many times I have heard stories about people in the GLBTQ community telling each other not to talk to somebody just because that person has HIV or it is rumored that that person might have HIV. I have had it happen to me more times than I can count. That right there is one of those stigmas that need to be erased, last time I checked you could not contract HIV from having a conversation with someone and damn really, if you could, the whole world would be infected. We all know how much the "community" loves to talk about each other, especially in the bar/club scene. For those of you who love to have diarrhea of the mouth and then drive off with your "equal love" stickers plastered all over your car, this message is for you.

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You can not go out preaching equal love until you treat others in our community as equals. Just because a person like me has HIV, does not mean that they are beneath you, or "dirty", or any of the other crap you want to talk about them and personally I welcome someone to come up and tell me I am "dirty," I will give them an education like nothing they have every had.

I really believe that if we want to fight and erase stigmas about HIV we need to start by educating the up and coming generation. Most of the generation today is ignorant about HIV and that is simply because they are lacking education on the subject, and most of us (me included) do not remember the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 80's or were not even around for it. I have said it before and I will say it again, I think social media should be our new frontier for fighting stigmas and for education. I mean everyone already lives plastered to their phones and stays connected to social media all day, so why not use those to reach out to the community?

If we can erase stigmas the GLBTQ community and learn to treat each other as equals, then and only then can we start to erase the stigmas in the rest of the world and be seen as a EQUAL UNITED COMMUNITY. We all want the same thing and that is just to be loved, so why single a group out because of something like HIV?

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This article was provided by TheBody.com.
 
See Also
What Does HIV/AIDS Stigma Look Like in Your Life?
More on Stigma and HIV/AIDS

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Greg (Rhode Island) Tue., Jan. 14, 2014 at 10:24 am EST
What disturbs me about the article and certain comments - guys, there IS no "gay community." It doesn't exist. But if it did exist, why do you think you can transform the WHOLE ENTIRE THING by... typing a lot?

That's a tremendous amount of pressure you are putting on yourselves. Please, take the pressure off. You have given yourself an impossible task (herculean?), if you think you need to change the ENTIRE (non-existent) "gay community" just so you can find a boyfriend, and/or get laid, and/or even make friends!

What a bizarre internet mania this is. And notice the original article hopes to cure the entire "LGBTQ community" of "stigma" even though it's directed solely at HIV+ people. Uh... how would that even work, isn't that a little impractical? Yes, I was around in the '80s so I have to ask - what would you guys think you'd be doing if the internet weren't invented yet?

Yes yes yes, I agree of course that there is "stigma" etc etc., I'm just saying the usual "solution" I see online is totally impractical and in fact, sets up a lot of you for suicidal depression. Please be more practical and take it easy on yourselves!

Find an HIV+ support group - yes, even an online support group is saner than trying to change the whole "gay community" - and focus on educating the relative handful of gay men you encounter in real life.
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Comment by: Seriously?!? Mon., Jan. 20, 2014 at 10:57 pm EST
Did you just tell us to shut up and get to the back of the bus with our own kind? That it's too much effort, don't even try? No wonder there's a problem. With friends like this...


Comment by: Colin (Toronto, Canada) Fri., Jan. 10, 2014 at 6:00 pm EST
The issue of HIV stigma is even worse in certain communities the West Indian, Black, Indian and Asian come to mind because of the rampant homophobia found in these communities which also leads to a fear of being tested and people not discussing the issues. A fear of being tested only brings on more transmissions. Part of the problem is also the church which is like an ostrich not lending it's voice to this matter except negatively.
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Comment by: Greg (Rhode Island) Fri., Jan. 10, 2014 at 3:12 pm EST
A better "sales pitch" would be to say that sero-discordant relationships can be great and work well. If neg guys reject even considering this, it's their loss!

Aside from serious relationships - as a poz guy what exactly are you looking for? Casual sex?: well you want someone who's not totally ignorant. In certain cases it might be up to you to inform them. If they reject you, again it's their loss, quit whining about "stigma." Non-sexual friend?: well you want someone who accepts you as you are.

Also, I never get why these plaintive wails against "stigma" always assume an LGBTQ "community" that in fact is totally imaginary. You seem to have enough trouble dealing with the guys in one or two bars! - so take the pressure off yourself and stop worrying about changing an entire gay "community" that fortunately, doesn't exist.
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Comment by: Gregory Freeman (St Kilda Australia) Thu., Jan. 9, 2014 at 6:22 pm EST
Great Artical, Here in Australia, Stigma, is alive and very well, especially in the Melbourne HIV community. The Positive Living Centre Commercial rd, prahran, In conjunction with PLWHA now refuse to use the red ribbon, as it attracts to much stigma. Instead the organisation has used a red cross.
It is laughable, that Melbournes only HIV centre, is a decentralised inhouse fighting arena, under the direction of Dr S Roche.
Unfortuantly, all government funding goes to this backwater organisation, where as an openly gay man, i am informed that this is not the norm, to be proud of being HIV. SO much so that my membership was cancelled. Yet the business still use the membership to get funding.
Unfortunatly as much as a bitch session this may sound like, it is very much the truth. If your going to be proud and out about H.I.V, Move to sydney australia .... The people are better and less stigmatised.
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Comment by: jim (boston) Thu., Jan. 9, 2014 at 6:15 pm EST
I was diagnosed with HIV in 1988. I was out of circulation at the time and when I re-entered the social scene in the mid-90's I was delighted not to encounter the ostracism I feared due to my status. That began to change about ten years ago. Now I don't even try anymore. I've had people act like I stepped over the line even by initiating conversation with them. The truth is I have experienced more HIV related discrimination from the gay community than I have from the straight world. Of course I don't really care if straight people have a problem with me, but it hurts deeply to be treated like a pariah by my own community.
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Comment by: Seer Clearly (Denver) Thu., Jan. 9, 2014 at 2:45 pm EST
I'm all for equal and united, those are the principles I live my life by. And I agree, HIV has a terrible stigma in gay community. Since I moved to Denver from San Francisco, I see how "the rest of us" live, in constant fear of HIV, full of misconceptions not much different from those of the 80's, and treating HIV+ people like pariahs. Clearly, education is the solution, but that requires outreach: how do you reach all those GLBTQ people when so many are "Q" and don't identify in any way that allows them to be reached with social network, advertisement, etc?

Add to that the new reality of HIV, that from recent research results, transmission rates from healthy, undetectable poz people under treatment are so close to zero that the risk of transmission in this case can be ignored. If there should be a "stigma" it should be against ignorance and lack of treatment, not the disease itself. How do we communicate that?

The core issue is still shame: shame of having the disease, layered on top of shame of being GLBTQ. The place, as always to start, is transforming and educating society to treat everyone as equals and eliminate discrimination. Only when people stop hating themselves for who they are will they make good health choices!
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