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Articles tagged with: AIDS


Stigma in full-force

Wednesday, 25 November 2015 Written by // Josh Categories // Arts and Entertainment, Current Affairs, Josh, Television, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces

Toronto guy Josh reacts to the Charlie Sheen affair and addresses those hurtful reactions we all read. “I want you to know that your mean comments about Charlie Sheen impacted a person living with HIV” he says.

Stigma in full-force

Many of you have likely heard the announcement from Charlie Sheen that he is HIV-positive. 

When I first saw #CharlieSheen as a top trend on Twitter, I immediately wondered what ridiculous statement he had made this time. When I clicked the hashtag and saw the news, I immediately felt two things: first, compassion. It’s not easy news to get, and it’s certainly not easy news to share. Second, I felt a sense of panic; I felt panicked because this is what people will be talking about. The workplace, friends . .

Inevitably, “did you hear about Charlie Sheen?!” will come up in conversation. Given that nobody but my manager knows about my status at work, it could lead to some interesting comments…

I also made the mistake of doing what I should not have done… I scrolled through some of the comments. My heart sank as the level of misunderstanding about HIV became obvious. The stigma that exists is so potent. I saw comments about how Charlie Sheen must be gay, or that this was just a matter of time, or how he deserved this. I refuse to share any of them here, because I’m so disgusted and hurt by them.

HIV doesn’t just happen to gay men; it can and does happen to anybody. Nor is it something that people “deserve.” I got HIV because of an unfaithful partner. Did I deserve to be cheated on, and deceived?

This post isn’t even fully-thought out, because I am so incredibly sad to see the lack of awareness or compassion in people for a virus that can and does happen to anyone. It isn’t just for “risky” or “promiscuous” people. You can be born with HIV.

If someone comes across this post, I want them to know who I am. I want them to know I am healthy, active and happy. I want them to know that if and when I become sexually active again, that I won’t and don’t hide my status because ethically, morally and legally, I am required to disclose.

I want you to know that I didn’t get HIV by having multiple partners, by abusing narcotics or doing something “dangerous.” I was diagnosed after someone I loved lied to me, cheated on me and did not consider the consequences of unsafe sex with someone outside of our what was supposed to be monogamous relationship.

I want you to know that I take one pill, once a day and the level of HIV in my blood is undetectable. I’m not cured, but I am healthy.

I want you to know that HIV and AIDS are not the same thing.

I want you to know that I work full-time, in a job that I love, with people who can’t tell I have HIV by looking at me.

I want you to know I have a family and friends who care about me.

I want you to know that your mean comments about Charlie Sheen impacted a person living with HIV. I want you to know that you can stop the stigma and learn more about HIV, and instead of judging, you should have a bit of compassion.

This article previously appeared in Josh’s own blog The Plus Side of Life here.