To all poz folk: You don’t have to blast, “Yo Philly! I’ve got HIV!” from the top of City Hall, or run naked through the street with an AIDS quilt tied around your neck (save that for summertime). Just tell one person in your life that you’re poz and have a conversation with them. Do it out of principle. Do it out of love. That in itself does more good than you can know.
To all neg folk: Write a letter to or have a drink with somebody who you know is HIV poz and tell them that they’re brave. Then go have a conversation with someone else about HIV and how people with HIV dwell in every societal circle.
Our country holds thousands of closeted poz people living in societal cliques (typically religious ones) where public disclosure of their status would mean social suicide, if not wholesale shunning.
But then, there are the rest of us — we who live in major cities, consort with liberal crowds, vouchsafe our status without fear of rejection and enjoy abundant support systems.
I’m sure quite a few people who read this column are poz and already out to some people in their lives. While I can’t tell you what to do, better that I say, “Just do it!” and be criticized than say nothing at all.
And shit, I know I can’t just say, “Hey look! I’m publicly poz everywhere I go! I write a damn column about it for Christ’s sake!” I enjoy many unmerited circumstances that give breadth to my big mouth: I’m white, young, partnered, good looking (yeah, I said it and, yeah, it helps), prideful and an inveterate blabbermouth such that even my doctors tell me to “heshhup my mouth” in their examination rooms.
Still, my disclosure campaigns aren’t easy either. My publicly poz status incurs the occasional polemic — typically from past lovers — that I’ve got HIV on the brain. When I write these columns, I have to face difficult truths about poz life that dig into me, make me obsessive and rattled and endure a gloom so great that sometimes it’s hard to bring myself to exist.
What would happen, say, if more than half the people in your life — friend, acquaintance and otherwise — knew you were poz? Perhaps that is already the case for some of you. Regardless, imagine what would change in your life, for better or worse. What emotions spring up? What would scare you? What would goad your mettle? It’s true that it’s no one’s business other than your own what your HIV status is. But if a good turn may be done, shouldn’t some thought be given toward its realization?
For any of you who may be familiar with Socrates, out of all the questions he parsed through in dialogue, there was one question he left unanswered: If a person is shown the truth — the unadulterated truth — will that person change? Until I got this point in writing this article, I didn’t understand why that was left as a question.
But now, I do.
The truth, like anything else that lives, must be shared lest falsehoods and obscurity enshroud it. Everyone is capable of both seeing the truth and blinding themselves to it. The greater the presence of the truth, the lesser the room will be left for anything else.
By sharing the truth with others, its presence grows greater.
But the onus of this deed needn’t fall on the shoulders of a few. Many hands make for light work, as they say. So lend me your hands, for the sake of someone you’ve never met.
We’re all in this together, folks. Now get out there and talk about it.
In the spirit of the “It Gets Better” campaign, Stella started the “It Gets Better HIV” video campaign for people living with HIV. Email email@example.com to participate.