Disease-Free, Clean and What?

Rev. Andrena Ingram
Rev. Andrena Ingram

I saw something written on my Facebook timeline that made me shake my head in shame.

I felt a little shame for the statements and shame for the person who wrote it. I thought they were a bit more far along in being supportive of person's living with HIV. The shame I felt morphed into anger. Anger that folks are still using language like this, in 2016.

The person took a video of her STD reports, which had all come back negative. She wrote in her status something to the effect of glorifying her disease-free status. It was such an absurd thing to say.

She went on to talk about not having a smell coming from between her legs. I thought she must be having a disagreement with someone. Too bad we have to tear each other down like that, especially publicly.

I remember living with an elderly woman who had an odor coming from between her legs. She was clean. She had cancer. And she did nothing to deserve it.

Language that stigmatizes people angers me.

What does it mean to be disease-free? Is it something to boast about?

Another cliché I have heard that makes my stomach do flips is when someone says that they are "clean"? What does that mean?

I'm sure most of you have already heard from us that we are just as clean as you are. There is nothing dirty about living with HIV, and we are certainly not "diseased".

Can I tell you something?

Either term can be stigmatizing in the HIV community. Neither term makes anyone "better" than anyone else. People who are "disease-free" are no better than those who are living with a medical condition.

Those terms are the kind of language that prevents folks from getting tested and knowing their status. It's obscene language. It's venomous language.

People living with diseases do amazing things -- like a lot of my brothers and sisters and me.

My "disease" has "freed" me up to be the person I am today. Can I tell you something else? You can be disease-free and still be "dis-eased".

Let's try and watch our language, please. It's hurtful. Words have the power to lift up or tear down.

Let's lift each other up!

Send Pastor Andrena an email.

Read Pastor Andrena's blog, Is the Ribbon Enough?.