HIV stigma still causes fear

The stigma of HIV still causes people to fear and discriminate against members of the LGBT community, their families, and their allies.

by Mary Turner
HIV/AIDS Columnist

There is no doubt that our perceptions of the world are shaped by the media to which we are exposed. It’s psychologically easier for us to accept stereotypes, partial truths, and lies if those are the messages we’ve been given.

Cognitive dissonance is painful. It’s often hurts our brains to see possibilities other than those to which we comfortably cling. Although the media seem to present more positive representations of men, they have actually created some one-dimensional stereotypes that hurt all of us, especially our children.

Often portrayed in the media, cisgender males are always strong characters whose flaws are forgivable because they only make mistakes while trying to defend and protect the people whom they love. Gay men are always feminine, flamboyant, emotional, and promiscuous, and transgender males are males who are dangerous, as evidenced by all the recent laws about bathroom privacy and who has what tucked into his/her undies.

What children need in order to grow up healthy and well-adjusted are parents who provide us with roots, who give us a sense of safety and acceptance and belonging. In the iconic traditional family, this would be the mom. But children also need someone who gives them wings, the ability to face their fears and try new things and push the boundaries. This would be the dad.

I have said all these things to finally say that men are important. Guys, your sex, your orientation, and your gender identification don’t matter to the people who love you. Even though HIV is no longer an automatic death sentence, it does negatively impact the lives of those affected by it. Treatments are expensive and they often have dreadful side effects. The risk of spreading the virus to others is ever present and can strain family and intimate relationships.

Also, the stigma of HIV still causes people to fear and discriminate against members of the LGBT community, their families, and their allies. If you are sexually active, especially with multiple partners, wear condoms. Don’t share needles, razors, toothbrushes, or other sharp objects that could transfer a virus via body fluids. Take care of your physical and emotional health.

Most importantly, get tested and know your status so you can take the best care of yourself and of those who love you and depend on you. As a mom, I know how important we all are. We love the people in our lives, we do our best to make their hurts go away, and we keep them safe. But the men in our lives (dads, granddads, uncles, and brothers) give us wings and set us free. This Father’s Day, blow all those stinky stereotypes away and just be your awesome selves.

The Gayly – June 23, 2016 @ 9 a.m.