As I was sitting by the pool watching my son and nephew splash and play I saw my phone light up, alerting me to a notice on Facebook. I opened the notice and read a message that had been posted on my wall. A Facebook friend whom I had recently friended had posted on my wall that she would be attending an HIV conference near me.
A very benign message in and of itself….but for someone who is not very public about my HIV status….I had a moment of panic. I felt myself blushing and I felt my breathing change. I went to delete the comment as quickly as possible. Maybe no one would notice?
But then I stopped. I thought for a moment…why am I so ashamed? Why am I so embarrassed? I'm simply giving in to the stigma. So I texted my sister for support (she's my best friend and source of reason). Luckily my sister was supportive and encouraged me to leave the comment posted on my Facebook wall.
Nothing about the comment said "Hey…you have HIV." Yet, I had been terrified of being 'outed' to all of my Facebook friends and family. But stigma did not win this time. The fear of rejection did not win. I won…and HIV won.
Simply mentioning HIV brings awareness. Hopefully, as I become more comfortable in my role as an HIV activist, I will bring more awareness and acceptance to a disease which carries such stigma.