Wednesday 30 September 2020

Normalising HIV Challenge against stigma

A challenge worth entering

One thing I have learnt about Social Media as I am just an amateur is that you never know what you post that might catch fire and go viral.

Just over two days ago, I joined the Normalising HIV Challenge with the hashtag #NormalizingHIVChallenge, the American spelling notwithstanding. What it involved was a short profile of oneself, one’s HIV status and what one is doing about it. Then, you can add a tagline.

This was all in aid of banishing HIV stigma, for there are many who are HIV-positive and living normal productive happy lives, going about regular and exciting activities the pills helping a long way.

I posted my tweet with the tagline, “I'm not dirty and clean is when you've had a shower.” This comes from what I have seen on certain profiles or in conversation where you are asked if you are clean. By implication, anyone who is HIV-positive is not clean or consequently dirty.

Courtesy of The Stigma Project

Blog - Dealing with sexuality and HIV stigma

Blog - Experience is not enough to teach you to understand things

Clean after a shower

This is after well-published and peer-reviewed studies that show HIV-positive people on antiretroviral drugs and by consequence with undetectable viral loads cannot pass the virus on to sexual partners. We can live healthy and passionate sex lives under the right medical supervision.

It does not mean we should be reckless with our sexual health, regular check-ups are necessary and it is unlikely that anyone who is HIV-positive is not completely clued in about this. Yet, ignorance persists in communities that should know better and the wider public who are usually deluded into thinking they are safe without any awareness of their real status.

Owning my experience

Literally, all the responses to my tweet have been supportive apart from one where the person in his cynicism thought I was being paid to demonstrate a false status in my search for clout and to trend. It was a shame that after he apologised, he deleted his tweets and then blocked me, out of embarrassment or shame or the inability to face up to his calumny, I would not know.

However, this much I know, a long time ago, I decided to own my situation, understand my condition and share my experience, if, in any little way, it might help others.

I know there are aspects of life I went through that others might well relate to and seek prompt medical attention rather than delay it. As I alluded to in the blog below.

Blog - When I had the murderous cancer of denial

Even this is normal

For the commendations of bravery or daring, I am thinking of neither, rather it is a simple case of acceptance, I am already a miracle of medical prowess that has come of the body of knowledge acquired through the medical interventions in other lives affected by HIV and related medical conditions. Forthrightly, I have to live with what I have, if I can't, what is the point of living and where is the joy of living?

We will continue to challenge HIV stigma, not so much to normalise being HIV-positive, but to aver that regardless of your HIV status it should not define you and you can live normal and amazingly productive lives. That is the goal of #NormalizingHIVChallenge from my perspective.

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