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Out and Proud

December 2, 2010

As an action-packed year for the HIV/AIDS community draws to a close, TheBody.com takes stock of 2010 in a new series of articles, "HIV/AIDS Year in Review: Looking Back on 2010 (and Ahead to 2011)." Read the entire series here.

The year 2010 has brought with it an expanded sense of what HIV/AIDS means not only to me but also my fellow Americans, friends and others across the world.

Richard Cordova III

Richard Cordova III

Coming to terms with my diagnosis and learning to live a life of openness with it was something that just naturally happened to me on my path to personal enlightenment. Coming to that place of peace and openness has opened my eyes to the reality of what it means for many people living with this disease in 2010.

With the medications keeping so many of us alive just as long as our negative counterparts, one might think that everything was A-OK. I’m here to tell you that it is not.

The stigma and shame that positive people feel from others due to their ignorance is merely one piece of the pie. It is the internalized shame and stigma felt by so many people living with HIV/AIDS that makes this problem even worse!

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This year has brought me into contact with so many people who tell me that they are afraid to be open about their disease or even worse, how when people found out about their disease they were ostracized from their homes, churches, and communities. These stories come from people living here in the United States and from people all over the world.

This is unacceptable!

I cannot tell another person what is the right choice for them. However, I can tell you that as an HIV-positive gay man, I will stand proud and tell anyone and everyone who will listen I am HIV positive!

You will respect me. You may not want to have sex with me but you will treat me the same as someone who is negative.

I will not be ashamed of who I am and I implore my positive brothers and sisters to do the same!

We must take a stand against the ignorance of this disease. It is a personal fight that we as humans must undertake. For those who live with this disease and those who share our fight who are negative. Speak out! Demand respect and demand equality.

There will always be people who will dislike you for something you cannot or will not change: your height, your sex, your skin color, your sexual orientation, or your religion.

Stand proud as someone living with disease. Force the change you wish to see in this world. Demand it.

Send Richard an e-mail.

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Richard finds a positive attitude and a sense of humor to be two of his most powerful weapons in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Richard is a Project Manager at Test Positive Aware Network, a long distance running coach for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago's endurance training program -- Team to End AIDS, and teaches Spinning classes at a local gym in Chicago. He enjoys talking about himself in the third person (on occasions like these) and finding new and exciting ways to be healthier physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He has been living with HIV for over eight years now and is technically by government standards not HIV positive but in fact a person living with AIDS. To that he says HA!


  

This article was provided by TheBody.com.
 
See Also
HIV/AIDS Year in Review: Looking Back on 2010 (and Ahead to 2011)
TheBody.com's Just Diagnosed Resource Center
Telling Others You're HIV Positive
More Personal Accounts of HIV Disclosure

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Now you know (North of Chelsea) Tue., Nov. 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm EST
If you're so proud of your AIDS then we should all be glad for your AIDS. More power to you; more AIDS more PRIDE. Does it get any better then this?
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Comment by: Tom (Chicago, IL) Tue., Feb. 22, 2011 at 4:44 pm EST
I am not proud of my HIV status, but I am not really ashamed of it either. I refuse to let others discriminate against or mistreat me because of it. I have always struggle with self-confidence, self-esteem, depression and loneliness like so many others.
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Comment by: Charles (New Jersey) Thu., Feb. 3, 2011 at 3:24 pm EST
Richard, I cried when I read this blog entry. Form the moment I was diagnosed in July of 2010 I just found t so natrual to tell those close to me that I am hiv+. My ex wife knows and my two twin 22 year old daughters know...I just have to go the to the last step and telling m 15 year old son that his dad is gay and hiv+ and I will have told all those closest to me. I have been told that I shouldn't be proud of my HIV status and reading your blog entry was a god send for me. Live in shame? no-way. There is much more about me than HIV. Ask my new boyfriend and he'll tell you!!!!!!
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Comment by: Richard Cordova (Chicago,IL) Thu., Feb. 10, 2011 at 5:16 pm EST
GO CHARLES GO!!!


Comment by: "Jane" (USA) Fri., Dec. 17, 2010 at 2:36 pm EST
I lost a job once because I disclosed my status to a supervisor in confidence at the time of an on-the-job injury. Prior to the incident, they informed me of how impressed they were by my performance as an representative of their company. A week after the incident, they told me "it just wasn't working out" with absolutely no explanation. I had no recourse because I was still working within the 90 day probationary period.
The stigma still lives. Telling someone you are hiv positive may never be like telling someone you are diabetic. I'll never be "out" about my status (except to family & close friends) because of the scars of that experience.
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Comment by: Monwabisi (Republic of South Africa) Mon., Feb. 14, 2011 at 9:29 am EST
Hi Jane! Pity they treated you so negatively. But one thing for sure- you are just like me, a living human being - with or without HIV. To tell or not to tell is a BIGGEST question. May I give you an advice - Just go out there and do something positive for an HIV+ person. You may even forget you are + and that may heal your scar. In fact its not a scar - its a bruise. Get up and live!Fortunately or unfortunately I'm negative but I've helped a lot of HIV+ people, more than thousand. I'm proud of it and guess what - they are so grateful and back to life. Dust yourself off!!!


Comment by: Mark (Guerneville, CA) Thu., Dec. 16, 2010 at 6:10 pm EST
Richard,

I totally understand your position. It is a balancing act: who needs to know or should know, and who doesn't need to? On the one hand I'm not all that shy about my status or what I've been through (relatively mild, by HIV/AIDS standards) but when I went back to school a few years ago I kept my status secret except to one counselor bound by law to confidentiality. I did so because I wanted to see- wanted to KNOW- if I could hold my own among younger, healthier students, and I didn't want any special accommodation. I was able to complete the course with competent to good grades, and it gave me a subtle feeling of power, of keeping a 'noble secret,'by never having told anyone. This is something that has to be handled on a case-by-case basis though, and my way might not be advisable or even possible for others. As for the rest: twenty years ago signs saying SILENCE=DEATH were everywhere and change happened, it might be time to print some updated ones and get to protesting.
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Comment by: Larry (New York, NY) Thu., Dec. 16, 2010 at 4:50 pm EST
I agree with the the other comments Richard. It is much easier for people to accept someone when they look as good as you. Nothing against you but you are onviously nnot dealing withsomething as demoralizing as facial wasting or being slammed with one issue after the next for the last 20 years.
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Comment by: Richard Cordova (Chicago, IL) Fri., Dec. 17, 2010 at 10:33 am EST
Facial wasting no, I can only imagine how hard that must be. However, my 6 year, daily Crystal Meth addiction (snorting, smoking, and injecting) and stints as a hustler all were demoralizing in their own right. They all snowballed into what I affectionately call my fire walk. I came to the brink of death. Realized my own mortality and decided to step back from the edge. This led me down the path to where I am today.

By saying all this I am not implying that my life is any easier or harder than anyone else. what I am saying is that in this life, stuff happens. Bad stuff. Facial wasting; drug addiction; abuse; neglect hunger; bigotry; and much more. All horrible in their own right.

As for looks, I happen to wonder then. If I am so good looking, then why don't guys talk to me? Why do I always feel that I am going to be rejected? Why do I wonder if I will ever be good enough for anyone. It's because that's all of my own internal dialogue that is going on.

I am curious, how different is the experience for the person who has facial wasting that accepts themselves for who they are vs the person who is "good looking" who thinks they are the ugly duckling. Just a thought.

Thank you for reading and posting! Happy Holidays





Comment by: Ike (Chicago) Mon., Dec. 13, 2010 at 1:03 pm EST
It is very easy to say when you are surrounded by accepting people.
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Comment by: Richard Cordova (Chicago, IL) Wed., Dec. 15, 2010 at 12:27 pm EST
Ike - This is true. I figure that if I lose people because of my status, then they weren't meant to be in my life anyways. Less people in my life means more room for others to be a part of it.


Comment by: Peter (Auckland, New Zealand) Sat., Dec. 11, 2010 at 10:54 am EST
I admire you, Richard. I wish I could be as brave as you.
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Comment by: John (Connecticut) Thu., Dec. 9, 2010 at 9:42 pm EST
I agree with you, Richard. I feel the same anger and exasperation with ignorant people--and with the gay men I've had to deal with who are every bit as ignorant and bigoted against another HIV+ gay man. I also know HIV+ gay men who refuse to tell anyone they know they are positive. Silence = Death, Still, Today
Now I've said that . . . I also have to say honestly, there are times I choose not to disclose my HIV status because I don't want it to be "the" thing that defines me and overshadows everything else about me--exactly the way I don't always "out" myself about being gay. It's not that I'm ashamed, it's that it's only one aspect of who I am and I don't want to define myself by my HIV diagnosis. I've written and spoken about being HIV+, so no one can say I'm "ashamed" of it or "closeted." So...I stand up and speak out as needed, but I remain seated and don't often find my conversation focusing on my HIV diagnosis because I've got a lot of other things going on, that interest me and are important to me.
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Comment by: Jeffrey (Denver, Colorado) Thu., Dec. 9, 2010 at 2:35 pm EST
If I were as handsome as you, it would be easier for me to be out and proud.
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Comment by: Richard Cordova (Chicago, IL) Thu., Dec. 16, 2010 at 1:18 am EST
Jeffrey, I struggle with body issues and confidence in my own looks. I think it is confidence in one's self that makes the difference. I don't believe that being HIV positive is a problem. Since I act as such, people treat me as such. That is my thought anyways. Thanks for commenting.


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