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Gay Men, HIV, and Stigma: A Psychotherapist’s Take

, by San Francisco AIDS Foundation

Beginning with a heartbreaking story and concluding with practical solutions, psychotherapist David Fawcett’s article in the November/December 2012 issue of Positively Aware offers insight into sources of HIV stigma for gay men—and how to overcome them.

“Positive coping strategies which move an individual toward healthy empowerment are the most effective tools to address stigma,” Fawcett explains. Such strategies are geared toward “reclaiming a healthy sense of self, a feeling of personal power, a shared identity with others, and a solid sense of self-acceptance in the face of painful stigma and discrimination.”

Want to know more? The article is excerpted below and available in full at PositivelyAware.com.

Spoiled Identity: Gay Men, HIV, and Stigma

By David Fawcett, PhD, LCSW

When John failed to arrive for his psychotherapy session, I became concerned. He had been living with HIV for years and had always been responsible with appointments, medications, and self care. A call to his roommate revealed he hadn’t arrived home the night before, and after several worrisome days, he was found in a hospital in another county. He had become disoriented while driving and had run his car off the road.

Medical tests were troubling: John was diagnosed with HIV encephalopathy complicated by hepatitis. His cognitive processes were in decline and, alone and unable to care for himself, John was placed in a nursing home to begin what would sadly be his final months. After a lifetime of effectively combating discrimination, John’s last days were filled with gay and HIV-related stigma. At 42, he clearly stood out from the other geriatric residents. He ate by himself and interacted with no one. His own frailty prevented him from reaching out. While other residents were unaware of his diagnosis, staff certainly knew but were unaccustomed to HIV/AIDS. Some refused to touch John or provide any care at all. Others confronted him directly, stating that, as a gay man, he got what he deserved, while others went out of their way to whisper their hateful words. Complaints to the facility administrators resulted in reprimands and a brief training event, but nothing significantly changed. In his final months, John was driven back into the closet under the crushing weight of stigma….

Click here to read the full article at PositivelyAware.com. And take a look at the related posts listed below for more resources for your health and emotional well-being.

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