Only one of the interviewees decided, after a lengthy and emotional interview, not to be identified. While he works at PWA and is very articulate and charming, the stigma of coming out as a PHA in these pages was too much for him to deal with at this point in his journey.
“Things are great now with the medications,” he says. “Stigma is the worst piece of it right now. Five years ago — surprise! — my baseline bloodwork revealed I was HIV-positive. There was nothing physiologically. HIV is only my work and popping three pills a day, but the stigma is overwhelming. I’m always making assumptions of what other people are going to think of me. I can live with HIV otherwise.”
Working at PWA creates a safe space, “but it’s a bubble. I had volunteered on the front desk for a year, but to come back as a client — I really struggled with that. When I became HIV-positive, I knew so much on the community level; I was privileged, but all of a sudden logic was not ruling. I was devastated. They understood.”
Having made the step, he is working at living outside the bubble of PWA. “It feels that, logically, the community would be supportive. Twenty-five percent of gay men are HIV-positive — how can they not be compassionate?”