Why Is Their A Perceived Stigma Over HIV & AIDS??
Great question. Is there a really a stigma? Do those living with the virus, like I do, put ourselves unnecessarily in a box which ultimately results in shame of having HIV? Or is there this unnecessary fear from those people who are HIV negative that inadvertently criminalizes and stigmatizes those that are living with HIV?
These are the questions that I have pondered as I went though many periods in my life after finding out I was HIV positive. Before that time, I perhaps was one of those persons that perpetuated the stigma. Up until then, I lived my life unashamed and sometimes in cohorts with those that might do some of the stigmatizing.
Soon after my discovery that I was HIV Positive, I went through a series of trial and errors. The trial and errors were never more enlightening than in the dating world. As for the stigma that is attached to HIV & AIDS, this was what I needed to conquer after the new reality that I was now facing.
Much has been said and there are many campaigns that exist to battle and combat the stigma that is empowered by the virus both inside and outside the gay community. In fact, I found it to be the most challenging when I was ostracized or made to feel less than because of words or actions either directly or indirectly by my contemporaries or counterparts.
Even as I put myself back out there in the dating world and was in the position to divulge my status, I found myself to be dropped like a hot rock by a particular suitor as if I was a pariah. These attempts reinforced the stigma that I felt was so prevalent in the world I was living in.
Finally one day I had an epiphany. No one could take my power away unless I allowed it. No one could make me feel stigmatized unless I allowed it. So instead of working towards anti-stigma I learned to embrace my status and love it. For doing that I moved closer toward divine love because I now knew that I was perfect just the way I was and no one or no group or society could take that away from me.
This lesson was paralleled in one of my wise teacher’s lessons regarding war. She was working on having people understand that resistance to something only magnifies a situation more so and if you continue to resist it will persist. So I did not embrace the anti-stigma campaign but rather I embraced a self-love and acceptance campaign. It’s not to say that I don’t support those that do. I feel they have their own calling to bring attention to this very important issue.
I also heeded the advice of one of my spiritual new thought leaders when he spoke the words “How people treat you is their Karma. How you react is yours.” This quote lives with me today as a mantra I use when my thoughts and mind go towards believing that a stigma exists. For now, a stigma does exist. It exists in my mind and only if I allow it to. Therefore, I truly believe that no stigma can exist in my world as I truly believe that I have control over my thoughts. So as for now, I can say ba-bye stigma. See you later or never again!!!
Another all important reason that a stigma could choose to reside in our minds, is that most people are afraid of death. It’s not a thing that most people welcome. If you accept that it’s there for all of us, then you can drop it so you can continue living. You see, any one of us can die at any time. We can die crossing the street. We can die in a car accident. We can die in a war. Eventually, all of us will die. I know of no one on this planet that has ever got out of here alive.
So if a stigma does exist and it is perpetuated within the minds of those who fear HIV because they fear the potential death that could result from it, then those people might realize one day that HIV is nothing to fear. It is nothing to fear because even if they got it, death will always arrive no matter what.
I use to be one of those that feared HIV and lived ignoring it as if it wouldn’t happen to me. It would happen to “those other people.” There is no way it could affect me as I was safe. Thus, I lived in ignorance of the virus and probably stigmatized those with it unknowingly because I thought I was immune.
This is something I carry with me each day as I continue my journey in a stigma free world of HIV and embrace myself as a whole and complete being no matter what my status is. And the fear of death…..well let’s just say that that is one fear I have conquered as I have come to realize that I am a soul with a body and not just a body. In other words, my body will die but my soul will live on. This brings me the greatest comfort as I live out my days as a man living with HIV and loving every portion of me. Warts and all.