Ending HIV Stigma
We are not just another case number. We are important to our communities.
You never know who you will run into sometimes, even at the doctor's office. I myself, as so many, live with my status. I don't want to say illness or disease, because both remind me of being sick. I have never had symptoms or sickness with HIV, but we are all different -- some may or may not have symptoms. That's why it's important to get tested.
I was diagnosed within 2 months of contracting the virus. SO many of us who have been living with the same diagnoses reach out to our communities to let others, both negative and positive, know the true depth and realities of living with HIV. There are many things we all face, such as fear of death, fear of rejection from our friends and family, the stigma, the issues of disclosure with everyone who has some part in our lives; dealing with depression and isolation as well.
I ran into a young gentleman one day, very upbeat and with so much energy. He was very friendly and wow so much out spoken. Normally I don't speak to a lot of people when out, especially in the city. I have just run into some rude people and have learned to go about my business. But this man was different. We were talking about stigma and discrimination and how we educate others with our blogs and the other functions we get involved in. I was amazed I clicked with a stranger -- we had so much in common with the fight to end HIV stigma and to focus on all communities. To reach out and educate, and give knowledge and show HIV is no longer a death sentence, and not to give up and still go for your goals and dreams; that just because you or someone you love may have HIV, you cannot give up.
A lot of things have truly changed over the last 35 years. Treatment works, and many others, as well as myself, have been able to live a normal life with an undetectable viral load. Anyway, for anyone wanting to know more about HIV and the reality of living and dealing with HIV, you can watch my friend's series online.
Unsure/Positive tells the story of Kieran, a young man who has just learned that he is HIV-positive. The excellent cast members include Amy DePaola as Kieran's best friend Allie, Tommy Derrah, Ken Breese, Lance Williams. (SEASON ONE NOW AVAILABLE HERE.) Danny Pintauro, who was a child star on Who's the Boss and is also a man living with HIV, has joined the cast of this colorful web series about the challenges of coming out and living with HIV, facing the truth of stigma and discrimination, and living and loving life and moving forward living with HIV.
Who is the creator of this wonderful reality show? Christian Daniel Kiley, creator, writer and director of Unsure/Positive, was diagnosed with HIV in 2007. Fear of discrimination and stigma kept Christian in the HIV closet for many years, but once he came out to family and friends, he saw love and support from many, and realized there is light at the end of the tunnel. At some point, he just had to have a little push from his therapist to have the courage to open up.
I think opening up is the best thing a person can do. A huge weight will be lifted off you. At first, yes, we all feel a fear of rejection; but if people are going to discriminate against you or reject you, they are not educated enough and just don't know it's their stupidity and their loss. You don't need them anyway. Christian Daniel Kiley is a filmmaker, actor, HIV awareness educator, husband, son, brother and a wonderful friend. Just like many of us who felt lost and scared but turned the negative thoughts to something positive, at the time of his diagnosis, he dealt with isolation, fear of the unknown, and refrained from disclosing his status to anyone. After five years of isolation, just like me -- we both isolated ourselves 5 years -- he decided to disclose to his family, friends and then the Internet. Since coming out, he has earned his MFA in Media Art from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the creator of the web series, Unsure/Positive, which released its first season in December of 2015. He also speaks to Boston-area youth about HIV awareness, with an emphasis on prevention and destigmatization.
Your questions, opinions, letters and suggestions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Christian can be found almost anywhere: follow him on Twitter, like his photos on Instagram, and check him out on Facebook.