Public HIV disclosure is happening more often and when it does, it creates a great opportunity for conversation about the illness and how it is acquired, while also raising awareness of the disease. Previously I have written posts on public HIV disclosure of a Reverend and two trained HIV-positive counselors Francis and Grace. Please follow the links to read their stories.
Public HIV disclosure goes to show that you just never know who among us is HIV-positive! Someone whom you may have known for a long time could be harboring a secret that goes back decades! Really after they share their stories, when you think about it, nothing about them has changed. They are still the same persons you have always known, they have only just divulged something surprising about themselves.
Did you see this story that went viral about a Facebook post of an HIV-positive father who disclosed his illness by using a picture of him holding a HIV+ sign and his wife and children holding HIV- signs? The original post is located here but here is what he posted:
HIV disclosure is a personal journey that takes years, and not many reach the stage of public HIV disclosure like Andrew, Reverend Young, Francis, and Grace. As you can see, Andrew’s disclosure came as a surprise to many of his long term friends and they reacted with shows of support. For many HIV-positive persons, thinking about and considering disclosure to even close friends and loved ones, is an anxiety provoking emotional journey. Many choose not to do it because they just don’t know what will happen, and they remain silent about their illnesses.
But for all of us, aren’t we glad that they have come forward to put a human face on this disease? Due to them, we are talking more about the illness, raising awareness, and getting educated about the disease. This is especially important for our youth who have not grown up in an era when HIV was a devastating illness which killed many people. For those still afraid of disclosing their illnesses, they are seeing that hmm, it may not go as badly as they may think it will. For these 4 people who have publicly shared their illnesses, they have freed themselves from the worry about telling people about their illnesses, or having someone discover about their illnesses. More importantly, they have played a large role in lowering the stigma associated with HIV infection because we see they are as normal as the neighbor living next door to us whom we may know much less about.
Now that we know about their illnesses, the ball is in our court ….. How are we going to handle the information? Are we going to appreciate their honesty? Are we going to applaud them for it? Are we going to show more understanding about the illness and infected persons? Are we going to be mean and go on their posts to write negative comments? Are we going to open our minds that HIV infection can and is acquired in ways that the infected person has no control over? And say that they could have controlled what led to their infection, harboring negative thoughts or voicing them still doesn’t change the fact that they are still HIV-positive. What we need to do is take in the information and move on from there. As Andrew stated:
I want to educate people so that we can get past the “HOW you got the disease” to “HOW you are living your life with it”?
I want to add to Andrew’s inspiring sentence with “thank you for sharing, is there anything I can do for you? Is there anything I can do personally to help lower the stigma associated with the illness?”
Bravo to these brave persons! For those not ready to share publicly, please know that it is okay and it is a journey taken one step at a time. However, it is good to disclose to at least one close trusted person as a first step to help you get emotional and social support that is crucial to coping with the illness. Take your time and get educated on disclosure so that you have all the info you need when you are ready to start the journey!
Please read my other posts on HIV disclosure:
- 6 Key HIV Disclosure Factors To Consider When Disclosing to Children
- 4 Phases of HIV disclosure for parents
- 3 Stages of disclosure for children
- How parents prepare for disclosure
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