December 1st gets the conversation rolling every year around HIV prevention, testing and treatment, but we feel that one day a year is just not enough. This is why Pineapple blog and the ‘And so it Happened’ project have teamed up for an entire month to share the stories of people living with HIV or on PrEP.
Each story is dedicated to encouraging people to remember how important it is to get tested and how we can combat the stigmas of living with the virus or being on PrEP. To read more about the project and the featured stories be sure to visit our sites!
Medical advances and the availability of PrEP have certainly improved and changed the lives of the HIV positive community in recent years. Public attitudes, however, have not kept pace — the stigma of an HIV positive diagnosis endures and the need for better understanding remains. And so this project provides a safe platform where the stories of those either living with HIV or on PrEP can be shared, because openness is key to tolerance and no one should have to hide — whatever their status.
“When I contracted HIV I was 3 yrs sober. Due to my addictive nature, I was using sex to fix feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem. It seemingly helped and the riskier it was, the better I felt. I was in a relationship with a meth user who I was unaware was poz. Looking back, I should have known he was, but I never asked. Screening my sex partners wasn’t very important to me because the narrative that the gay cis white male culture taught me was being black and gay means you’re not sexually equal to them. Eventually it caught up to me and in 2012 I tested poz. I’m not sure whom I got it from. It could have been the guy I was seeing or someone I had condomless sex with. I don’t believe the ‘who’ or ‘when’ really matters. It just happened.
I grow up as a preacher’s kid. When my dad suspected I was gay, he told me that I was going to die of AIDS. I didn’t want him to be right, so I started medication immediately. It took a few years to become comfortable with my diagnosis. I went through a long period of depression and anxiety. I had to do a great deal of emotional work to feel better.
I believe my dating life has been forever changed due to my diagnosis. Attempting to navigate sex and dating with HIV has been challenging. When I was diagnosed, I thought I was going to be alone forever. Thankfully I don’t feel that way anymore. Disclosing has become easier and if I’m rejected because I’m poz, I don’t give it much thought unless I decide to educate the person. It has added to my list of insecurities however. Not only am I gay, I’m also black, a recovering alcoholic with mental health issues, a former cutter, who now is HIV+. It’s important for me to keep myself surrounded by people who love me and remind me that I have worth.
When more and more people began to learn about PrEP and take it, it took some of the pressure off of disclosing my status. I believe it finally brought up a reason for those who were HIV- to educate themselves. Things are still far from perfect in terms of destigmatizing HIV, and PrEP has had a stigma of its own, but I believe it’s slowly going in the right direction.”
Eric, 32, undetectable. Harlem, NY. HIV Tester and Counselor
Find out more about ‘And so it happent’ project: