Q: I"m a fairly young, attractive enough, great guy who happens to be HIV positive, but I am having a hard time shaking the 'stigma' I feel about HIV. I'm basically living a totally 'normal' life, doing well, feeling well, but part of me is terribly judgmental and unforgiving towards myself. I don't want HIV to define me, but it is. I want to change, what can I do?A: What is the change that you want? Do you want to be the person you were before you acquired HIV or do you want to accept yourself as the person you are now that you have HIV? Only one is possible... and it's the healthiest thing you can do.
After over 25 years in our consciousness, HIV no longer requires explanation. We know what it is, how one gets it, what to do medically, and how to prevent others from getting it. Though we have not conquered the spread of HIV, we have at least tamed it. And yet, the negative attitudes that took hold when we first called the manifestations of HIV "Gay-Related Immune Disorder" persist. American culture linked it to the already maligned gay community and the stigma took hold. The disease became more than bad, it became "God's wrath" and those who contracted it were seen as "deserving" for having done such deplorable things such as having sex with someone of their same gender. Even many in the gay community took to judging those with HIV and the judgment came hardest from the those who sanctimoniously believed that they themselves would never do something that might put them at risk.
It seems that some of the harsh judgments and negative opinions of society and our community have taken hold in you, and, most likely, were present in you before you tested positive. And, how could it not? We are constantly told that it is good to do things to prevent HIV and irresponsible to do things that put us in danger. And, possibly it is. But most people do not set out to get HIV and most go through a serious adjustment to their lives when they test positive.