The Other Pink Elephant in the Room
By Enrique Franco
July 9, 2010
I'm not talking about the HIV, but about people ashamed or scared about getting tested. It is an unspoken subject throughout many homes in America, and throughout the world. No matter what cultural community you are in, people refuse to get even TESTED because they fear others backlashing. It is really sad. Because they choose to live in fear, possibly unknowingly infected, rather than take care of themselves.
It leads to another stigma. In fact, THIS is where the stigma is born. Here, when it is time to get tested.
When we hear about, or know of, someone getting tested for HIV/AIDS, what types of questions filter in our minds? Some begin to ask: What has he/she has been secretly doing? Or: Oh my God, is he/she "that way"? Or how about: Why are they getting tested anyway? Don't get me wrong, everyone is entitled to ask questions. That's human nature. In this case though, the acceptable and relevant one to ask is: What business is it of mine?
Because believe it or not, those other questions possess a damaging effect. They are contributing to the very stigma that frightens and stops people who want to get tested from going. It is because of stigma that people shy away from dealing with their own personal concerns. I believe that there is a greater force than stigma. That force is love. I also believe that anyone who stands up and gets tested possesses that love.
Through testing, they are showing a love for their body, their health, and their lives. They are getting tested because they genuinely care about what is going on with their bodies. In doing so, these brave people are reclaiming the strength some would otherwise direct towards the stigma. No one should ever be made to feel disgusting or shameful for getting tested. No one should ever have ANY type of stigma inflicted on them. Instead, they should be acknowledged as taking a bold step. They should be encouraged to take care of themselves.
This self-empowerment should be celebrated, rather than questioned. There is absolutely no shame or vileness in getting tested. The shame and vileness comes from those individuals who decide to inflict and impose the stigma. Getting tested for HIV/AIDS is not a filthy, shameful thing to do. Having HIV/AIDS is not a filthy, shameful thing to have.
HIV/AIDS is just a disease. Those who get tested for HIV/AIDS are just getting tested. Nothing more, nothing less. It is that simple. If you are one of those people asking: Should I get tested? I encourage you to do so. This is a private matter between you and your doctor. It is important because through this you are taking care of yourself. You are boldly getting the answer to that one significant question that is concerning you. Get tested for you. Get tested for your peace of mind.
In the end, it really doesn't matter WHAT the results are. If they come back negative, good for you. Keep protecting yourself and monitoring whatever it is you choose to do with your partners. If it happens to come back positive, well that's alright too. At least you'll know. Also, depending on how far you are with having it, you may be in a solid position to combat it.
I wanted to write this and state that it is your responsibility to get tested. That is certainly not MY place. I just ask that if you truly love yourself, please get tested. Don't allow those certain groups of people to whisper and talk ridiculous talk. I'm not just telling this to all of my fellow gay brothers. I am addressing this message to everyone who is thinking about getting tested. It's a serious decision to make, but that decision is solely yours.
A Brighter Vision
The U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy got Enrique Franco kicked out of the Army. It also, oddly, was the reason he found out he was HIV positive.
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