Here are salvos from a new battle:
. Calling a young, HIV-negative gay man a "Truvada whore" simply for choosing a prevention option with a higher efficacy rate than condoms.
. Becoming indignant when someone says AIDS is still a gay problem.
. Turning to the police when you find out the guy that just jilted you is HIV-positive.
. Putting "I'm clean, ub2" in your online profile.
. Joining digital stonings via online comment sections when a 20-something dares to come out as HIV-positive.
. HIV-negative guys barebacking with those who tell them they are negative and shunning the few brave ones who admit they're positive.
These are just some of the examples of the new HIV war, with its gay-on-gay shaming.
HIV-related stigma is worse than ever. Not the external kind, where a society is panicked about the new plague. Thankfully, the days of being shunned by hospital orderlies or funeral homes are over. But I'd prefer that kind of stigma over today's brand. At least I knew how to fight the external kind. Today's internal stigma, where a community shuns its own, is seemingly intractable and far more destructive.
It breaks my heart that the worst of HIV stigma comes from my own community: gay men. It wasn't always this way. It might surprise today's younger gay men to learn that there was very little HIV-related stigma between us during the early years of the crisis. If anything, I felt the opposite of stigma when I publicly disclosed my status in the late '80s. Gay men with HIV received communal love and support. Once the gospel of safe sex was firmly entrenched, even sexual shunning became rare. Maybe it was our numbers, with upwards of half of New York's and San Francisco's gay men being HIV-positive by 1985. Maybe it was because many of us couldn't hide it, as our HIV painfully manifested as AIDS. Maybe it was our communal fighting back, as we rose up against a government that was ignoring our suffering.
This article first appeared in The Huffington Post/HuffPost Gay Voices where you can read the rest of the article here.
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