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World AIDS Day Is My Personal Disclosure Anniversary and a Day for Us All to Honor and Remember

November 30, 2016

Harold Scott in 1995, with a recipient of a humanitarian award named in his honor

Harold Scott in 1995, with a recipient of a humanitarian award named in his honor (Courtesy of Harold "Scottie" Scott

On this eve of World AIDS Day 2016, I, as a 27-year survivor of the epidemic, am thinking back over the years and about how HIV continues to impact my life.

Twenty-two years ago today (November 30), I was experiencing a number of emotions. Fear, however, was the most significant, for I was about 24 hours away from a front-page newspaper story that would put my life on display.

Growing up and living in rural Tennessee, I was then 32 years old, and it was a time and place when HIV/AIDS was a hot topic. Nevertheless, it was something that most thought of as a concern in only the large cities elsewhere in the United States. I would shatter that belief when I made my announcement that I was infected with HIV and had been living with it, mostly in silence, for a number of years.

No one living in such a rural area had ever had the courage to step forward to bring HIV/AIDS out of the shadows, to shine a spotlight on the epidemic that had made its way to rural America. Courageous was not a description that I would have ever used for myself. Yet, it took great courage to stand before a TV camera and an audience and say that I was infected with HIV. I was heading into uncharted waters to say the least.


As I have moved forward from that day and lived openly with my status, I have remained a well-known face of HIV/AIDS, continuing to speak publicly to various community groups and students, among others. I also share a number of posts on my Facebook page about my health and the things I encounter from time to time, such as stigma and shaming. On more than one occasion it has been rumored that I have died. Image the surprised look on the faces of those who run into me after hearing that I am dead!

As we continue to live longer with HIV/AIDS, folks like myself sometimes struggle with the long-term effects of the meds we take, or have taken, and it perhaps sometimes forces us to "rethink" our outlook on life, in that so many of us were not supposed to have made it this far.

As I mark this anniversary of my disclosure of being HIV positive, and World AIDS Day, I pause to honor those still here and to remember those taken. Having lived my entire life in rural Tennessee, naturally I call it home. But, while on this HIV journey, my life has interconnected with those across the United States and in some cases around the world through the common thread of the AIDS epidemic and the impact it has had on our lives.

Journey on ...

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Positive and Beyond: A Rural Perspective

Harold R. 'Scottie' Scott

Harold R. "Scottie" Scott

Harold R. "Scottie" Scott grew up on the family farm in rural Jackson County, Tennessee, which has a population of less than 10,000. On October 24, 1991, he learned he was infected with HIV via a phone call while at work. This set into motion a personal journey, which would include a very public announcement that he was living with HIV while a featured speaker at a 1994 World AIDS Day program. He has since gone on to volunteer in various capacities, representing the rural person's voice on HIV/AIDS and the issues that are sometimes unique to rural versus urban life. Among other roles, he is a speaker/educator who lives openly with his status while serving as a resource for the newly diagnosed in rural Tennessee. He currently resides some 30 miles east of Nashville, Tennessee.

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