I know that I have written about ending stigma before ( just last month in fact), but I saw something this past week that got me heated and made me want to talk about it again, but this time in a different light. I recently saw a photo of a black family that was used as a celebration of how far we have come in regards to HIV prevention, treatment, and care. Within the photo were a wife, husband, and two children. They all held up signs, the wife’s saying HIV+, and the husband’s and kid’s saying HIV-. It was to show how even though the wife has a positive status, because of the advancements of medicine and care, she is healthy and fine, and her partner keeps his status as negative. The kids also were born without contracting HIV from their mother. This image was supposed to be a celebration, a healthy black family that is staying that way because of advancements in medicine and research. I, however, made the dreadful mistake of opening up the comments section. As this was related to public health and HIV, I wanted to see what people’s thoughts were on the topic. Never open the comment section, as I read so much ignorance and hate towards this family, and towards anybody living with HIV, it got me steaming and made me want to write.
You can have a completely healthy relationship with someone living with HIV and maintain a negative status due to advancements in medicine. If someone living with HIV stays in care and on their medicine, they can reach an undetectable status. That means they cannot transmit the virus to a negative partner. The negative partner can also get on PrEP to prevent the contraction of HIV from the positive partner. Someone having a positive status does not give you any information about them. You cannot assume how they contracted it or how long they have been living with it. People were looking at the photo saying she was “cheating” or “unfaithful” or saying, “how can she be HIV+ unless her husband is up to something.” Anyone can contract HIV, and it can be contracted from more ways than just sex, such as from blood from a shared needle or a workplace accident. She could have been living with HIV before she even met her partner; we just do not know, and should never assume. It is this spreading of ignorance that adds to the stigma of those folks living with HIV. People living with HIV deserve love, deserve intimacy, and need to stop being treated like second class citizens. This beautiful family previously mentioned is a prime example of healthy partners with different statuses. Get educated, get tested, know your status, and stop the ignorance.
You can learn more about Getting To Zero Illinois here.
You can also learn more about the concepts talked about in this article here.
For education and information on free sexual health screenings (HIV/HepC/Sexually Transmitted Infections) in the greater Peoria area contact Central Illinois FRIENDS at (309) 671-2144 to set up an appointment.
HIV testing locations and other information can be also be obtained by calling the IDPH HIV/AIDS & STD hotline at 1-800-AID-AIDS (1-800-243-2437).
You can learn more about what was talked about above here:
If you live outside the greater Peoria area please visit: www.hivcareconnect.com to find a resource near you.