What it feels like: Activists confront and combat ‘shame around living with HIV’

“I was thinking, ‘I’m going to die,’” she said. “A couple of weeks after the diagnosis, I started making plans on what I was going to do with the rest of my life, and I came up with this plan that I was going to take out this big loan, and I was going to go and do all the things that I wanted to do.”

Thankfully, after a few months, Jade realized that she didn’t have to give up without a fight, and today, she works to help others find that same motivation.

Randy spent the majority of his life closeted, married to a woman, hiding his genuine self for risk of backlash from his loved ones and his community. He got divorced in his late 30s and came out a year later, feeling he could finally live his truth.

“It wasn’t until a year afterwards (his divorce) that I came out as a gay man and felt comfortable enough to be my authentic self. And then life just got really crappy,” he said. “Financially, relationship-wise. I had an estrangement from my children. I still beat myself up about that almost daily.”

It wasn’t until almost a decade after coming out that he was diagnosed with HIV. And while the diagnosis was hard, the fear of people close to him finding out was harder.

“When I was first diagnosed, I did have someone threaten to disclose my status to my children, and this was when they were much younger. They’re 25 and 22 now, so it’s not an issue, and I’m very open about it,” he said. “But those were the things that, from the very onset of learning that I was living with HIV, I knew there was a target on my back.”

Switching gears after a positive result


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