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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

Reality Check -- Stigma Stinks

By Robert Breining

April 7, 2010

<i>Big Brother Germany</i>'s HIV-positive couple, Carlos and Harald.

Big Brother Germany's HIV-positive couple, Carlos and Harald. Photo from

Today I am going to blog about a situation that happened on a reality show called Big Brother in Germany. I was totally shocked about this when I read it. I personally love Big Brother. It is my favorite reality show. Here is a little bit about the show for people who are not familiar with it. Big Brother challenges a group of strangers (houseguests) to live under one roof. They're cut off from the outside world, while cameras catch their every move 24 hours a day, for 3 months, all for the chance at winning $500,000.

Now to the story I wanted to talk about. The German version of the reality show Big Brother has seen the early exit of one contestant, Horst, a 41 year old tattoo artist from Otzberg, after a gay couple, Carlos and Harald, entered the house.

Horst -- tattoo artist.

Horst -- tattoo artist. Photo from

Saying he didn't want to have to deal with living with people who had a serious medical condition (both Carlos and Harald are HIV positive), Horst told fellow contestants that it was not an HIV issue, and that he would have felt the same and come to the same decision for any serious medical condition, such as cancer.

Fellow houseguests did attempt to get Horst to change his mind and stay but the tattoo artist made it clear that he had only come into the Big Brother house to have fun, and that the addition of the HIV-positive couple, Carlos and Harald, had acted to make it a much more serious issue.

What are your thoughts on the way this houseguest reacted? Do we give him a pass because he would've supposedly left the show if it was any other illness, like cancer?

I think it just shows how much the world still need to be educated. As a tattoo artist you would assume that he was educated about HIV. I am hoping this doesn't stop CBS and Big Brother's producers from casting more HIV-positive people in the future.

In Hopes of Inspiring,


Send Robert an e-mail.

See Also
13 Moments in Black Celebrity Activism
History's Biggest HIV-Positive Celebrities
More About HIV on Television

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Paul (Canada) Sun., Oct. 24, 2010 at 5:35 pm UTC
I don't know. I'm confident it was his comfort level with a communicable disease that prompted him to leave, and although that may have hurt people's feelings, the reality is there is still a lot of fear out there, and I don't think that makes him a "bad person". Its not like he put anybody down explicitly, he just bowed out.
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Comment by: Shon (Atlanta) Wed., Apr. 14, 2010 at 9:04 pm UTC
Unfortunately ignorance is everywhere.
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Comment by: c672 (zambia) Sat., Apr. 10, 2010 at 4:15 am UTC
I think Horst needs to ask himself the question ...'What if it was me?'If he was the one with cancer or HIV,how would he want people to treat him?
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Comment by: Molly (Delaware) Fri., Apr. 9, 2010 at 11:08 am UTC
I totally agree with you this one Robert, that there needs to be more education out there and what a way to get it out there...I have memories of MTV Real World San Fran with Pedro, I was looking fwd to seeing it every time, and even after the show was over, they did a tribute to Pedro, and I remember watching that as well...

Again, Pedro had an impact on me as well as did Ryan White, The Ray brothers and others...

Hopefully this comment made sense!
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Comment by: Kirk (Dallas, TX) Thu., Apr. 8, 2010 at 11:29 pm UTC
I must admit, I do not watch reality shows but I do believe stigma is rooted in ignorance. Thanks for all you are doing.
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Comment by: jb (boston) Thu., Apr. 8, 2010 at 6:07 pm UTC
"Big Brother" is probably the cheesiest guilty pleasure on my tv watching list. I've thought about the possibility of being a contestant, but the big stumbling block would seem to be the dietary restrictions. Going a week or more on BB slop would probably put me in the hospital. My gut already seems to be occupied by a band of particularly malicious gremlins. Subjecting it to the dietary restrictions faced by the inmates in the BB house, even when they're not on slop, just wouldn't work.
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Comment by: Gump (Cambridge, MA) Thu., Apr. 8, 2010 at 1:55 pm UTC
Stigma is a very serious issue. It's created and maintained by fear, but perpetuated by ignorance. It's quite enough to feel like "damaged goods" if you're living with HIV, but to have people post remarks on dating sites like "D&D HIV FREE, UB2" or the date and time of their last HIV test, just serves to make the problem worse and further isolate us. To help fight that, I refuse to talk to people who perpetuate stigma. They will almost never figure it out, as it's their own fear they must work through. In the end, no matter what you have going on in life, we are all human beings.
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Comment by: Karina Diaz (Manassas, VA) Wed., Apr. 7, 2010 at 12:52 pm UTC
First and foremost, well done. Keep up the good work and keep blogging. Second, maybe this guy was being honest, maybe not, but I completely agree with you that the world still needs to be more educated about people living with the HIV/AIDS.
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The Positive Pitch

I describe myself as a "positive person with purpose." My goal is to help people living with HIV/AIDS discover similarities in each other ... and form friendships. I want to ease the shock of a diagnosis and remind people that our dreams are not infected. I am also an HIV/AIDS cyber-activist, radio show host, blogger and social network guru.

For my full bio, click here.

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