Part 1: HIV Stigma in the Workplace
This is the first of a series of blogs that John has written specifically for Positive Allies to share. The blogs will recount his experience of living with HIV in the workplace and will show the devastating impact that HIV-related stigma can have in the workplace. Read part one of our blog, below.
Day 1 – The aftermath
I have just found out that my own equivalent of a nuclear explosion has gone off 2 years ago, and now myself my family and my friends are only now about to get hit with the shockwave. They have no idea what’s about to come. All I can do is try and prepare them and throw myself in front of as much of it as I can. This moment is the only fear I have in the world, it has haunted me since the moment I got my diagnosis. Most people lie, they lie to win, to cover their tracks, to hide who they are. I have lied most of my adult life just to survive, people out there who think they knew the “real” me are finding out they didn’t and feeling betrayed.
This virus changes you, in the way it altered my DNA to make me slightly different, when it infected your thought process you think differently about me. I never asked for any of this. I don’t want to be talking to you right now, I was lucky enough to be able to retire at 41, I’ve been building a house for 2 years, I live out in the country out the road of everyone and I keep myself to myself. My goal was to build a completely carbon neutral home powered by solar and hydro power and produce enough power to sell back to the grid to sustain the project financially. Living in a small community has its benefits and also its negatives. I can’t slide under the radar anymore; people are more aware of you.
The rumour mill is rife, ex-soldier, crime lord, drug dealer, you name it they think it. I didn’t dare receive any local medical care because it’s too small for my secret. But I am happy. As happy as I’ve ever been in my life. There is always something to fill your day and the reward grows everyday as you get closer to the goal. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is nothing, situations you feel you should react to, sometimes just go away if you do nothing. My new predicament will not go away. If the news had broken 5 years ago, I would have left the country, if it broke 5 years from now, I wouldn’t care, but here we are in the now and it’s still an issue, a big one.
What I have learned is that every time I explain my disease, my treatment and that they are not in any danger, then they become ok with it. Everyone has said to me, “if I just had that information before I wouldn’t even have worried” Its like I’m one of them again and not seedy and dirty anymore. We have come a very long way in a short space of time. So, I now must press pause on the current life and get this message out as quickly and safely as possible, so the hurt just stops and then try to figure out why the bomb went off in the first place. I’m not suggesting single handedly I’m going to work some miracle, but il do my best and we will see where we go. But I’m in it till it’s done.