Status Update: Sharing Your HIV Status Online
The HIV status of Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Clowney is between him, and his doctor. And his 9,000 Twitter followers.
Shortly after receiving negative results on an HIV test in May, Clowney not only shared his status with followers, but also posted a photo of the results. "Got My HIV Results Back!!" he wrote. "Thank God for keeping my body healthy and safe."
The tweet received mixed reactions.
Nate Davis at USA Today advised Clowney to continue to "focus on catching passes." Chris Yuscavage at Complex magazine said that while HIV and STD testing is important, it's too much information to share with Twitter followers. Dom Consentino at Deadspin quipped that he was "declaring himself clean and ready for some humping. I can support this."
Clowney is not the only public figure to share his or her HIV status with the world. Pop stars like singing group SWV have talked about how frequently they get tested, and politicians like President Obama have even invited the press along to their test. So what's the big deal?
A big part of it seems to be that Clowney is a professional football player. Had Clowney tested positive, would he be received by the rest of the sporting community? Would he be asked to leave the NFL, or quietly pushed out of the league? Would his team mates treat him differently? It's difficult to know for sure until it happens. The most prominent HIV-positive pro-athlete is Magic Johnson, who was diagnosed 20 years ago and subsequently retired -- the medication we have no did not yet exist, and HIV/AIDS was still a scary, fairly new concept. Now with better medication, and a slightly more knowledgeable population, would it be easier for a person to be openly positive in the locker room?
And then there's the Twitter factor. Was sharing his information on Twitter too much information? In the interest of raising awareness, and decreasing stigma, Clowney's share was, in the end, not too much information. While he got some backlash, Clowney's point is clear: being able to talk about HIV testing shouldn't be a big deal. It simply should be like going to the eye doctor, or having an annual physical, all in an effort to ensure that you can continue to live a healthy life.
But in the interest of privacy, Clowney may want to be careful. His phone number is right on the sheet, and if you're familiar with his neighborhood in Williamsville, N.Y., you might be able to figure out where he lives, too. So, maybe next time he gets tested, a simple, photoless (or photoshopped) tweet will suffice.