My past post "Yes, I Have HIV but I Am Not HIV Positive" has received a lot of mixed emotions and reactions.
Many people supported what I was writing about while others not so much. I welcome all feedback either positive or negative about anything I write because it means that we are talking about the issue. I am a firm believer that we learn from each other and even if we may not agree, we are able to come together and share ideas with one another.
This blog post is a follow up to that post and some of the things that have happened since it was published. I believe the reason that post received so much attention is due to the fact that it is controversial and people do not always like being faced with controversy. But we do all have to admit that when we are forced to face it, we are forced to think about it.
This is a quote sent to me by e-mail from a reader of my last blog:
"Yes, why can't we have HIV like others have Diabetes and High Blood Pressure? The disease of HIV has changed so much in one generation from a death sentence to chronic condition but the terms HIV positive and HIV negative have not evolved with them. I believe that when you tell someone you are HIV+ they think of all the nasty things that accompanied the disease back in the 80s and early 90s, issues that just aren't relevant today."
I could not agree with this reader any more. When a person hears the term "HIV+" they have a pre-determined stereotype that comes associated with it. These stereotypes also carry the negative stigmas that many associate with the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Have we not evolved from those days? Is HIV no longer considered a death sentence like it was then?
When people hear the term HIV+, they do go though certain stages such as fear "Will I catch it from eating after them?" "Will I catch it from sharing a bathroom with them?" and so many more. If they do not have thoughts such as those, they may think along the lines "He had it coming for sleeping with just anyone." or "She must of used drugs and probably deserves what has happened."
While we all want to think the best in people, we all know that as soon as they hear that term, they start to develop a judgement about the person based on the "knowledge" they have heard in the past. I will stand by what I said in my previous post and I do believe that if we start to evolve the terminology used to describe HIV and AIDS, we can start to change those stereotypes and erase the stigmas that surround that term.
Another reader wrote: "Rather than worrying about how to tell the world if one is infected with the HIV-virus I think it is more important how we carry ourselves as individuals."
While with this statement, I do agree with part of it. The part I disagree with is the way we tell the world. The fact is that the way we tell the world and the way we represent the virus is the way the world will perceive the virus and those living with it. However, I do agree with that how we carry ourselves as individuals also plays a huge part in helping the world to better understand HIV.
Does the person who may of contracted HIV through Sexual Assault deserve to go through these stigmas and stereotypes? What about the child who was born with HIV because their parents could not afford treatment during the pregnancy or they simple did not know. Do they deserve to have to go though it? In fact, do any of us deserve to go though it simply because people are holding on to the older ideas they think they knew about HIV in the beginning of the epidemic?
Yes I do know that the terms "positive" and "negative" refer to the testing and the results are read that you either test positive for the HIV antibodies or you do not, but why must we label ourselves as so? Let's leave those terms where they belong, in the testing facility. You either test positive or negative, you do not lave to label yourself as such.
I will stand behind my decision to no longer say that I am HIV Positive, but instead say that I am living with HIV. You could even put a play on the words and say that HIV is living with you. These types of terminology are ones that people are not use to hearing and it may bring them to open up and ask questions about HIV which in turn could help change the way they think about the virus and those living with it.