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World AIDS Day Reading: “An Open Letter to the Person Who Gave Me HIV”

Originally published December 1, 2019
Last updated December 2, 2019
Posted in , , ,

A few weeks ago, as part of Frolic Festival, I ran a “Queer Sex Ed” event. After the event, someone came up to me and said, “I learned something today – I didn’t know AIDS was still a thing.”

Yes, AIDS is still a thing. HIV is treatable and is now a manageable medical condition, not a death sentence. But there is still stigma around it.

Next time you’re at the GP, ask to get tested. As them to throw in a full STI panel next time you’re getting your cholesterol or vitamin D checked. It’s no big deal, and it’s better to know than not.

Yes, even you.

We discovered that you have had HIV for a long time. Maybe years. You didn’t know, and you hadn’t tested. Your immune system was slowly being overwhelmed. I was met with the knowledge that maybe if I didn’t get HIV, if I hadn’t taken the step to ask you to get tested, that this could have been a very different story. A story of hospitals and death. This is how the silence brings harm. It isolates us and makes us vulnerable.

People avoid testing for HIV, because they think that HIV isn’t just a test for a virus but a test of your morality. That in order to be found positive, you have to be a “bad” person; someone who did something wrong. You told me you had avoided testing out of fear, and because you couldn’t see how you could be positive. You’re a middle class, educated guy. Romantic. Monogamous at heart. Along with silence, stigma can also blind us. If we can’t see that HIV can affect anyone, and that all it takes is one risky choice either by ourselves or by our partners, then we’ll never see an end to death from HIV. Never take the steps to protect ourselves and the ones we love.

If I didn’t get HIV, if I hadn’t taken the step to ask you to get tested, that this could have been a very different story. A story of hospitals and death. This is how the silence brings harm.

Newham, Beau. “An Open Letter to the Person Who Gave Me HIV.” Vice (blog), June 18, 2019. https://www.vice.com/en_au/article/mb8kyx/an-open-letter-to-the-person-who-gave-me-hiv

Alex Bayley is a tech industry refugee, independent researcher, writer, educator and community builder. They live in Ballarat, west of Melbourne, Australia.

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4 Comments

  1. Rick Scott on December 1, 2019 at 10:50 pm

    Rick Scott reposted this read on twitter.com.

  2. Fractional Hug* winner on December 1, 2019 at 11:36 pm

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  3. Clare on December 2, 2019 at 7:55 am

    Clare liked this read on twitter.com.

  4. Yarmouth Pride on December 2, 2019 at 7:55 am

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