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.
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. Im 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!
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.
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!