Living well with HIV – Happy Pride and coming out as having HIV

Pride can sometimes be a catalyst to assist people in coming out. I think one of the powerful messages from Pride is the notion of having the freedom to be yourself.

That all of our self is acceptable, even if some people have yet to catch up with the idea of ‘live and let live’.

For some people communicating their HIV positive status can feel like coming out a second time.

Recall for a moment your own personal journey of self acceptance and what it took to get you there.

I was fortunate that when I was diagnosed with HIV I had some awesome friends around me, access to counseling and an accepting family.

However not every one newly diagnosed with HIV has an immediately supportive environment.

For some people it can take many attempts at putting yourself out there and facing rejection before the friendly supportive faces are found.

The personal cost of searching for people who are fully accepting of HIV status can sometimes be particularly high if you live in rural or remote areas, or come from an already marginalised group, like sex workers, Aboriginal people, injecting drug users or newly arrived migrants.

A useful lesson I have learned, is too not refer to myself as HIV Positive (this is to say hi I am Cipri I am HIV positive).

The mistake made here is to refer to your self as a virus. More correctly, I am a person that is living with a virus and I have HIV (but not I am HIV).

First and foremost I am a human being. To describe and diminish your worth to the point that all you are is a walking virus, is to buy into the irrational fears, stigma and prejudices associated with HIV.

So if you choose to come out, I recommend coming out as a person living with a medical condition, and not to identify as the medical condition. I believe this separation is important on a pathway to acceptance.

It can be easy to accept people that have HIV when you focus on the real person in front of you and not the virus.

If you decline sexual engagement with a person living with HIV, be sure treat them as you would like to be treated if the situation was reversed, with dignity and respect.

How you react and choose to respond before a cure to HIV will reveal more of you character than after a cure is found. So I encourage you to have an inspiring story to tell.

Cipri Martinez

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