August 21, 2018 - Remaining Positive While Positive - ATN-YEAH Editorial
By Kendrick D. Forte
Member of ATN-YEAH
As a youth, it is hard to maintain a positive attitude while having a positive HIV status. However, I consider HIV a Hope in the Valley disease; there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This light is happiness and comfortability that comes with time, and varies from person to person because everyone experiences different situations and obstacles that can get in the way of the “light.” Majority of these obstacles involve various forms of HIV-related stigma encountered daily across multiple platforms. It takes an incredible amount of strength and persistent determination to fight HIV-related stigma in your life and remain positive while positive.
The need for things to be uniform is one of the primary causes of HIV-related stigma, what I call the Hope in the Valley disease. Throughout life, there will be times when someone says something negative about HIV, directly or indirectly. Uniformity can lead to assumptions about anything different than the perceived norm, and thus, create bias. Assumptions are usually the result of a lack knowledge about something. HIV-related stigma can come from various sources: friends and family, potential partners, and medical professionals Listening to others talking about HIV allows you to determine what information you can and cannot share with them. Being aware of HIV-related stigma allows youth to make better selections with regard to the people in their lives with whom they choose to form close relationships with and confide in. People who label youth living with HIV are not the best people to share your status with. Confidentiality is key. It’s your Hope in the Valley to share, not theirs. Living with HIV doesn’t mean you can be disrespected and discounted, respect is still required and expected.
The majority of stigma that youth living with HIV face involves being considered “sick,” “vile,” or “dirty.” The constant concern feeling of not being accepted or labeled as “dirty” is overwhelming. This feeling is prevalent for youth living with HIV. Alleviating this stigma causes pride in who you are. You are not a “sick” or “diseased” person, so don’t let anyone refer to you as such. You are not “vile,” never let the word hurt your feelings. If you are not “dirty,” never allow yourself to be viewed this way. Negative words are used to belittle, demean, and to describe the unknown. No one knows you better than you. Being the best you that you can be is knowing that you have Hope in the Valley and the light at the end of the tunnel will always be there as long as you don’t let the negative words of others bring you down. You’re strong, courageous, and beautiful. Maintaining a healthy mindset is the best way to remain positive while positive.
Read more about the ATN-YEAH, the ATN's National Community Advisory Board, here.