I know so many of us have many ideas and feelings about stigma or just the word itself....perhaps I am naive because I have never really experienced it firsthand. I want to believe it's because of my positive attitude and outlook and a feeling of confidence that nothing anyone says would hurt me. And in the 27 years I've been HIV positive I have never had anyone say anything mean, rude or hurtful to me. I have only had nothing but support and acceptance. I realize that isn't the same for everyone. Though I have never been fully public about my status, because I believe everything has a time and a place, so perhaps that is why? But then again with strangers it wouldn't matter what they said to me unless it was something that would be hurtful to my family. I moved to a new town in a new state two years ago and only knew a handful of folks besides my immediate family so it's not like something you tell people first off...plus both my niece and nephew’s kids attend the school a few blocks from me in my subdivision and I know there is still such ignorance out there... Like I said, I do not care what would be said about me but I just cannot take that chance with my little loved ones until they are much older and can understand themselves what I am really about!
There was a dentist office I used to go to for years and I was too afraid to tell them but they all gloved up in space suits anyway so I wasn't too concerned about disclosure. But as time went on and I knew they should know not because of protecting them but also for me in case there was something that didn't look or seem right that could be associated with folks with HIV. So I told them, and I was waiting for a reaction...and if I saw one frown on someone’s face or a moment of hesitation or other signs that they were not comfortable with me as a patient I was ready to walk out....but I saw none of that to my relief. I had heard horror stories from other friends about their experiences and this was not in a small hick town....this was in a pretty large suburb of San Francisco!
And then I met the dentist, he was young and handsome....but every time he saw me he would sit in his chair facing me and take my hands in his and ask "How are you? Is everything okay?"... Wow! Didn't expect that...and then thought..."damn, wish I was younger!" LOL... I have really had many many positive experiences and no issues telling any persons in health-related positions my status but am able to share my experiences and feelings here in this blog and as an online member in Maria T Mejia's hiv poz group on Facebook. So for now I am okay with that... When my life situation changes I will look forward to more public advocacy...but for now I am where God has me and I fine with that.