Source: (Liz Bradbury, 2012)
It was not until a recent event that should give all of us pause. I am referring to the forced outing of my HIV status by another person. These types of events are happening with greater frequency according to some local HIV case manager(s). The LGBT community, at least in Allentown, Pa, seem to be moving away from simple stigma to bullying, intimidation, and punishment of people living with HIV. Meanwhile, my local LGBT organizations continue to be silent on the issue allow it to continue despite pleading for some type of intrinsically motivated advocacy. In my opinion, LGBT organizations are complicit in the bullying of people with HIV because remaining silent about HIV stigma is worse than committing it. For example, the comments made by Liz Bradbury of the Pennsylvania Diversity Network indicate how stigma has been allowed to proliferate unchecked (see picture above).
(Source: User "Verse" Grindr, 9/15/2014) (Source: User "Verse" Grindr, 9/15/2014)
(Source: User "Verse" Grindr, 9/15/2014)
I could have allowed this incident to cause me to become depressed and afraid, which I did, but I chose to re-frame this stigmatizing event into something positive to help combat HIV stigma and the ignorance surrounding it. I turned this person's intimidating actions into an HIV public service announcement about HIV stigma. I edited this person's photo to include the following and used it as my facebook profile photo.
(Source: Daniel Angelis, facebook, 2014)
Why was I ultimately unafraid of this person? I was not afraid because this person never disclosed their name or photo. I was victimized and bullied by someone who hid behind a computer screen but was afraid to discuss their convictions in the light of day. It is time we bring HIV stigma out from behind computer screens and closed conversations. It is time to end HIV stigma, bullying, and intimidation once and for all. All I can say to this person is, I wish that you were more educated about HIV because ignorance is putting you ("Verse") at increased risk of contracting the virus because HIV is primarily transmitted by people who do not know their status because they have not been tested.
The fear that you ("Verse") are creating cause people to be afraid to be tested for HIV. Therefore, if a person does not know they have the virus because of this and are transmitting the virus because they are not being treated with medications that prevent transmission to begin with. The next time someone stigmatizes you, remember that you have the power to stop them.