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Stigma

#74 of Our Amazing HIV-Positive People of 2016: Rob Williams

Rob Williams

How this former model is working to change the perception of what it means to live with AIDS.

Rob Williams, 36, has been living with HIV for over a decade. In what should have been a pivotal moment in his career turned into one of the biggest challenges he has had to overcome. In his own words, Williams recalls the moment when he learned that he was HIV-positive and what inspires him to spread his message today.

How did you first learn that you were HIV-positive?

"I received my HIV diagnosis 10 years ago. It was during a time of many changes in my life.  I had recently been named the runner-up in the reality competition television show Manhunt: The Search for America’s Most Gorgeous Male Model on Bravo TV. I had left law school and moved to New York to pursue a career in modeling.  I was lonely, lost, and although I was consistently working as a model, I was wondering if I had made a mistake by leaving law school.  My diagnosis kicked me in the gut and I immediately felt limited and saddled with guilt and shame."

What inspires you to share your story of living with HIV?

"The process of learning to accept and love myself, despite my many consequential mistakes, took a miracle.  It took all of the positive messages of the LGBT and HIV communities, the advances in research and medication promising a fuller life, and perhaps most difficult of all, it required self-transformation.  I had to dismantle my suffocating blanket of guilt and self-loathing as well as my own bias against others living with HIV and, instead, uncover and nourish the love I have for myself and my community.  The only way I can repay my debts to this community, which offered its love and support before I even wanted it or could accept it, is by being open, honest and loving to all, and refusing to live in silence or shame.  This is why I am compelled to be an advocate for those living with HIV and AIDS."

What do you hope to accomplish in your work as an HIV activist?

"My purpose in sharing my story is to connect to those suffering alone and in silence and help reduce stigma and secrecy about HIV and AIDS so that fewer people will be diagnosed with it.  When I tell my story, I think about myself 10 years ago as a newly diagnosed person with HIV, and try to attenuate my fears and my false conceptions of a limited life so those being diagnosed now may live without the same burdens."

Williams currently lives in West Hollywood where we works as an independent content creator. He recently released an inspiring video about the importance of fighting the stigma of AIDS as well as HIV.

 

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