Josh Robbins is no stranger to stigma. Since he was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 2012, Robbins has become a staunch activist online, through his award-winning blog, I’m Still Josh; his video series HIV Video Minute with Josh Robbins; and his Ask HIV mobile app. Since first sharing his personal journey online, Robbins — who began HIV Video Minute for Plus — has unintentionally created his own brand around what it means to be living a healthy life with HIV.
In 2015, HIV Video Minute evolved into #HIVScoop, a multi-platform social media series of buzzworthy HIV-related videos, tweets, and posts. Robbins still uses the series to share fun and clever HIV news.
“I think people like it,” Robbins says. “I like it. So, I guess that’s all that matters, right?”
Even now, Robbins’s success seems to have been almost preordained. “I simply started sharing some of my personal journey online and I think it resonates still with some people, and that’s why I advocate for others,” he says. “I try and steer clear of any HIV politics. I’ve been to D.C. twice and both times I missed my flight. I think that is saying something!”
But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t faced stigma due to his HIV-positive status. Robbins says he responds to haters by trying to “understand where negative energy comes from — a place of ignorance, of fear, or of insecurity. Then I like to spend time building on whatever common ground I share with the person [who] is stigmatizing others. I choose my battles.”
Another antidote to stigma: Robbins is now attempting to build the biggest “digital encouragement wall” on Pinterest — with quotes from influencers of all types, photos, memes, and inspirational posters — aimed at newly diagnosed people.
Robbins is also partnering with Napo Pharmaceuticals, makers of the antidiarrheal drug Myetsi, on its #MyHIVThankYou campaign, which hopes to provide those living with HIV “a place to say thanks” or to show appreciation to someone, like a doctor or friend, who’s been instrumental in their journey.
Now a spokesperson for Napo, Robbins admits he has personally battled gastrointestinal issues on HIV meds and has no qualms talking about the gut-wrenching side effect many poz people are too embarrassed to discuss.
“I think everyone, really, has this anxiety and embarrassment when it comes to gastro and stomach issues,” he shares. “I got over my hesitation a long time ago and found a solution that works for me. People should talk about it more, in my opinion. Who cares?”
Mytesi is the only Food and Drug Administration-approved medicine that specifically targets HIV-related diarrhea. Robbins has made it part of his own treatment.
He says his collaboration with Napo began when the company, “shared the news about Mytesi with me and I was obviously intrigued,” he remembers. “I checked out the information about diarrhea and decided to chat with my doctor and see if I could get a prescription. My doctor wrote one immediately. Napo’s team members really care and know their information. I think their compassion, work ethic, and responsiveness is why I am really proud to be advising for #MyHIVThankYou.”