Overcoming HIV Stigma
Most of my life has been worrying about what you thought of me, from family to friends and the strangers I would encounter through my life. It was exhausting to think that everybody I either had a relationship with that I would have to disclose over and over again.
Over time I began to realize their may be tears and sharing, but it all lead to educating people on what Aids is and is not, The reality was I hated myself. I felt shameful, angry, guilty, and fearful. The discomfort comes from the shaky subject of sex and how they view sex and disease even my understanding and uncomfortable feelings came into play. I was stuck in the prison that I constructed.
People can be cruel and insensitive, they can say the most inappropriate things. I had to understand I don't have to own there ignorance. I now know that I was hurting myself more than you could ever hurt me.
So what have I learned? how did I overcome the Stigma of AIDS?
1. I became an entrepreneur. I no longer have to hide from coworkers. Being my own boss allowed me to pick who I wanted to be around.
2. I had to educate myself about AIDS so that I could be confident in educating you.
3 I understood my rights so that when I was challenged, I knew how to handle myself and get the answers I needed to protect me.
4. Advocated for my own health needs.
5. Some people will never be ok with me and how I can not own their ignorance.
I went on a trip to the Grand Canyon, a lifetime trip, 180 miles of pure heaven. I was scared and had to tell them about my health history prior to the trip, a normal process for all. When I got there and sat up camp for the first time, one of the leaders comes over carrying an extra toilet. He told me because of my health they would provide me with a separate toilet. My first instinct was to get small, then the shift happened, I laughed and told him that although the thought of having my own toilet is appealing Aids could not be spread from sweat, tears, feces, or a toilet seat. He relaxed said cool ( the only way a westerner could ) and we had the best trip ever. That week we all bonded told stories and had the time of our lives.
This didn't happen alone I got lots of help and now I have been able to thrive and live 25 years later.