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Please Quit Looking for My HIV

Please Quit Looking for My HIV


If you know someone is HIV-positive, quit looking for their virus. They already told you where it is.

I have always been a pretty confident guy. Even when I am not confident, I’m still try to act confident. It was just the way I was raised. I had a great family, a strong Texas grit and fairly good view of who I wanted to be, despite a few bumps and detours along the way. So naturally, when I found out that I was HIV-positive, I attacked it like I have every other obstacle that has presented itself; head first, eyes wide open and fully exposed.

For the most part, it was the best decision I have ever made. Coming out publicly as HIV-positive has allowed me to manage my health with the support of my friends and family and without any feelings of shame or guilt. Just like coming out as gay, coming out as HIV-positive is a feeling of release. It is freedom from a secret. And once it happens, there is nothing and no person that could ever make you go back. That being said, I do have one big complaint with my new identity.

Everyone keeps looking for my HIV.

I noticed pretty early on that people do not like it when they think you should be suffering, but you don’t appear to be. When I first revealed my status to the world, I experienced an almost unanimous outcry of support and sympathy. But when my familiar cocky form of confidence and snarky attitude betrayed the swan song that people were singing to, I just became that asshole that wanted attention for HIV.

Neither perceptions were correct, but the divergent thinking led to people to search for signs of my disease as if to say “Ah ha! There it is. He does bleed.”

Strangers and friends alike first started looking for my HIV in my relationship. It typically went something like this:

“Is your boyfriend HIV-positive?”

If I said yes, than it would make sense why we are together.

“Is your boyfriend HIV-negative?”

If I said no, than he must be such an amazing guy.

My boyfriend is awesome, but sometimes he isn’t. I am pretty great, too, but sometimes I can be a terror. Either way, he puts up with my crazy and we are together because we fell in love, regardless of our HIV statuses.

Recently, I was at an event benefitting an HIV/AIDS service organization. Although I am not proud of it, I snuck outside to bum a cigarette. What can I say? Large groups of people can make me nervous.

But what was interesting… No, annoying…. Actually, infuriating, was the response I received from the man who I asked to bum a cig from.

“Are you really supposed to be smoking?”

I’m pretty sure no one is supposed to be smoking. Yes, that cigarette could probably kill me a little faster, but it wasn’t exactly prolonging his life either. Yet this man looked at me and could only see that guy who was HIV-positive. Here we were, at an HIV fundraiser, and I got bitch slapped with the stigma my own virus. I still took the cig, but I smoked it with attitude.

“Well, you look really good.”

Now, normally I would snatch this compliment up and try to make it last for at least a week. Everyone likes to be told that they look good, but only if the person means it. However, when I run into old friends and acquaintances looking like I haven’t seen the sun or a shower for a few days (it happens a lot), it is a slap in the face to be told, “I look really good.”

I didn’t look good. I looked like shit. But I can still look good and that is when I want to hear it. Instead, I have someone staring at me like I am on a hospital bed, basically saying that I don’t look dead yet. Instead of my old friend asking me if I had a rough night or giving me a hard time as friends do, he or she was looking for my HIV.

Managing HIV is no cakewalk. I do not take it lightly nor do I ever wish to minimize its impact or capitalize off of my issues. However, trust me when I say it doesn’t keep me from doing anything and everything that I want to do in this life. I may be confident, but I do bleed. But the thing is, you do too, whether you are HIV-positive or not.

So please quit looking for my HIV because I am not trying to hide it. I will show you what it is and where I keep it, but believe me when I tell you what is isn’t. 

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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