Since my diagnosis as HIV+, one of the most difficult aspects to live with has been the issue of stigma. Remembering the first words out of my doctor's mouth sent me into a tailspin of despair, less about the medical predicament I was in but more focused on what people would say. I felt isolated and terrified about even speaking with my closest friends fearing they would shun me.
It took all the will power I had to get to that doctor's office do the HIV test and return for my results. The shame was so insidious that I felt paralyzed with fear and initially could not bear to think about the looks even the health care providers would give me. The words: dirty, abomination, sinner and the idea that I deserved this diagnosis rang loudly in my psyche.
The feelings that stigma unearthed in my life has caused me to be more public about my diagnosis. This is my reality and after doing years of clinical work it has become somewhat easier to withstand the tidal wave that is stigma.
Until the day comes when we can talk about HIV from the bedroom to the pulpit with honesty, love, compassion and without blame or pity only then can we remove the stigma of HIV.
I have decided not let HIV stigma silence me or cause me to compromise my health or my life any longer and that is my suggestion for anyone else who struggles with this issue. Just like coming out of the closet as a gay man, this public disclosure for me is meant to break the silence and pain of Stigma against those who are affected or infected by HIV.