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Stigma

Why I Finally Came Out as HIV-Positive

HIV Positive

I helped others who were brave enough to endure the scrutiny, until I was solid enough to do so myself.

As a vice president of an investment management firm, I kept hidden from my colleagues for years the fact that I was HIV-positive. To make up for what I lacked in courage, I instead focused on what I could do to help alleviate the suffering of others who had exposed themselves to the scrutiny — and stereotypes — that often accompanies a revealed diagnosis.

In 2010, I started an AIDS Walk team, hosted by Orange County-based AIDS Services Foundation (ASF), raising $200,000 for the organization to date. Eventually feeling safe among ASF friends, I found the courage to wear a  'Survivor' shirt in the AIDS Walk some six months ago, which was attended by colleagues and family members who weren't yet aware I was HIV-positive. My fellow walkers, who I feared would turn their backs on me, instead had tears in their eyes. 

The following Monday at work, one woman told me she viewed the disease in a completely different light, acknowledging that the stereotypes she'd held true this whole time were no longer. Another close friend of mine sat down with his four children and asked them how they felt about my revelation, sparking a discussion I never imagined I could inspire.

In 2013, I furthered my involvement and joined ASF's board of directors. With the support of my family — both at ASF and home — I was able to tap into a passion to make change while at the same time releasing myself from shadows where I once hid.

Talking openly and honestly, I feel my diagnosis isn't in vain and that, for once, I can clearly see, know, and accept my purpose in life: to educate others and shine a light on a disease that can be eradicated with love, acceptance, and our collective efforts.

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