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Steps to Ending HIV Discrimination

, by San Francisco AIDS Foundation

In a thought-provoking response to a recent Huffington Post article that called for a new “National HIV Coming Out Day” to help end discrimination against people with HIV, law professor Ari Ezra Waldman draws on lessons from history and offers his take on what we can do to make HIV status disclosure easier.

“Standing alone, another ‘day’ is not going to make coming out as HIV positive any more likely or any more helpful to the cause of ending discrimination of HIV-positive individuals. To do that, the rest of us need to help,” writes Waldman, who is the legal news editor for TowleRoad.com and the brains behind BETA’s own “Ask a Lawyer” column.

Paraphrased below from his February 21 TowleRoad.com column are four steps we all can take to help end discrimination against people living with HIV and make the world a safer and better-informed place for them to come out as HIV positive—if, when, and to whom they choose.

1. End the stigma—including, Waldman emphasizes, HIV stigma within the gay community.

2. Know your history. “The more younger gay persons understand where they came from,” he writes, “the more likely they will appreciate their indelible connection to their HIV-positive comrades.”

3. Get tested. Knowing your HIV status empowers you to take control of your health going forward; not knowing “is risky to sexual partners and to the community as a whole.” (Learn more about HIV testing and find a place to get tested.)

4. Invest in your community. Waldman quotes San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s own James Loduca, vice president of public affairs and development: “We must invest heavily in programs that increase self-esteem, community connectedness and resilience while reducing shame about STIs, substance use and mental illness.”

Waldman concludes the post with a reminder that individuals have the power to effect great and lasting change: “An awareness day cannot, without more, encourage more people with HIV to come out. Awareness is a small part of the calculus; you are a bigger part.”

Check out an excerpt from the post below, and read the full piece at TowleRoad.com.

The Political and Legal Power of Identity: Coming Out as HIV-Positive

By Ari Ezra Waldman

February 21, 2013

Michael J. Kaplan, President and CEO of AIDS United, took to the Huffington Post yesterday to call for a “National HIV Coming Out Day. A day where we face the reality that America is living with HIV, that our friends and family need to be tested, that those infected can live better through treatment, and that we can get to an AIDS-free generation.”

…The strategy is familiar, and it is one that the gay community has used to great success since the days after Stonewall. Hiding your sexual orientation, we argued, was tantamount to accepting the stigma of shame and burden of second-class citizenship thrust upon you by a heterosexual majority. Coming out, though, was not just a statement of pride and a challenge to the social status quo. It was the essential first step of a concerted effort to turn gays from media caricatures to real people, with goals, loves, hopes, and dreams. If you were out, you could have a conversation with your neighbors when some bombastic politician bloviated about sodomy and the end of all things. They could attach real examples to abstract concepts like discrimination if they knew that you had been fired simply for being gay. They could see the litany of concrete ways in which anti-gay laws like the Defense of Marriage Act, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” or marriage bans were hurting you and your family, not just the harder-to-understand “gay community.”

The question is: Will coming out as HIV positive benefit the HIV-positive community the same way coming out as gay benefited the gay community? Is there any reason to think the situations will be different?

There are similarities, but also real differences….

Read the full piece at TowleRoad.com.

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3 Responses to Steps to Ending HIV Discrimination

  1. Ian Leffler says:

    The stigma will never go away, there is to much drama with hiv and aids, what any healthy human being would want that? Look at profiles of people, saying things such as (No drama, Drama Free ands such) I have had younger people and same age people not even give me a chance as a friend do to the fact that I have Aids. I don’t hide the fact, yet it makes getting to no new people very difficult.( Ian from Colorado Springs CO)