Truth, Reconciliation and Healing for Heteromagnetics

My wife Dionne and I have lived with AIDS since 1984. I am HIV+, she is not. We have experienced the kind of suffering that families affected by HIV go through. We talk to people all of the time about the different circumstances and emotions that heterosexuals have to negotiate while either living with, or protecting themselves from, HIV.

For the most part, the unique issues that are plaguing heterosexual families are the result of stigma and fear. As a result of the portrayal of HIV as a gay disease, the strong advocacy of the LGBT community, and a level of homophobia from the overall community, heterosexuals now find themselves in a situation where they are sometimes reluctant about accessing the information and resources needed to deal with important aspects of managing lives in an HIV world.

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It is way past the time to have these conversations. Truth and reconciliation will help us to RISE to this next level of healing our world community of HIV/AIDS. As an HIV-positive person who has lived most of my life hosting this retrovirus, I realize how much I have benefitted from the "ACT UP" advocacy. I was there when the gay community fought in life and/or death fashion to make the establishment acknowledge our plight and provide assistance. It was, and still is, easy for me to see how foolish homophobia is. Like a drug addict in need of recovery in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, I know that the most important thing when your ass is on fire is to stop, drop and roll. The thing you want when you are drowning is a life preserver. It doesn't matter who throws it to you. So, although I was not predisposed to discriminate against someone due to their sexual orientation in the first place, I am sure that an attitude of intolerance or indifference toward the gay community is self-defeating and potentially fatal. Many times, you can't save your face and your ass at the same time.

Now that the proverbial fire is out and HIV treatments are working much better, many of my gay brothers, if the truth were told, seem to have resentments with the heterosexual community for allowing so many people (gay and hetero) to die. I get where that resentment and those feelings come from. It is sad and hypocritical for the government, the religious community, and the community at large to have turned a blind eye to the scourge of HIV for as long as it did. I would even consider it biblical by proportion. But like everything else in this world, it did not change until we were willing to face our fears and take a good look at ourselves for the purpose of creating healing solutions. It is not always easy, but it is always necessary.

As a result of all of these things and more, heterosexuals find themselves in a place where they feel like they do not have enough spaces where they feel comfortable enough to put out the fire of HIV. Many heteromagnetic families and relationships remain ignorant, or worse, dangerous because they are not comfortable with the "firemen." Heteros need the healing waters that are readily available and being accessed and controlled by the LGBT, but they are afraid to jump in the water because they do not want to swim with gay people. It is time to deal with the unspoken issues that have become the barrier we need to break in order to end AIDS, and get well below the 50,000 new infections we continue to see every year.

I would have to write a book in order to deal with all of the different issues that people relate to my wife and me about how their romantic and family relationships are affected when one partner is positive and the other is not. We call that a "heteromagnetic" relationship, and there are so many people living that way as a direct result of the proliferation of the viruses.

In the coming days, weeks, months, and if history is any indication, years, we intend to reduce the health consequences of social isolation to men and women living heterosexually with HIV/AIDS and/or hepatitis. I believe that one way to address these issues is to engage our partners and family members in honest dialogue, and provide opportunities and space for heterosexuals and gay communities to individually and collectively heal the wounds of stigma. Stigma is being more concerned with what others think about you than what you think about yourself. That is something that we can change.

It is now necessary to ensure that priority issues for heterosexuals living with HIV/AIDS and/or hepatitis are on the agenda of area health services and relevant non-governmental organizations. The next level of healing, now that the medications have seemingly held the retrovirus at bay, is to heal the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of HIV/hepatitis. This journey has given us all a great opportunity to assist in human evolution. It is a propitious time for us to do so. In reality, it is time for us to RISE!!