PLWHA Going Public: Disclosure Provides Relief, Confidence, & Reduced Stigma
Dr. Susan Paxton and Bradford McIntyre
Photograph of Bradford McIntyre,
Positively Positive, Canada.
Fear of HIV/AIDS and the horror of succumbing to the infection create the stigma. Without knowledge of how the virus is transmitted, HIV-Positive people are shunned as a source of infection and being HIV-Positive is incorrectly regarded as a death sentence.
Hence, when HIV-Positive people go public to show that they have lived for many years with anti-retroviral treatment and the progress of the disease can be managed - families and friends realize that people with HIV/AIDS need not be feared. They can laugh and talk and work together. They can shake hands and breathe the same air. There is no need for stigma.
"The vast majority of positive speakers find that speaking out and giving a face to HIV is an extremely rewarding experience. Most say that the benefits, including increased self-esteem and the relief of lifting the burden of secrecy outweigh any negative consequences." (Lifting The Burden of Secrecy, by Dr. Susan Paxton, Director of Positive Response and co-recipient of the Jonathan Mann Memorial Scholarship, Commonwealth of Australia).
For Dr. Susan Paxton an active member of the Asia Pacific Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS, and HIV-Positive herself - the support of her family and her son, coupled with her response to anti-retroviral therapy and her nomination to carry the Olympic Flame during the 2000 Games at Sydney, signaled the end of a nightmare ... a positive diagnosis was not the end of the road.
"Many who are living with HIV are afraid to disclose, but have never disclosed to anyone! They assume that everyone will pull away. You can tell people that you're HIV+ and they will not run away. There are many people living with HIV who have loving family and friends and are in relationships. My partner is not HIV+. It is the people who are HIV+ without disclosure who are keeping the stigma alive and cause the spread of HIV!" (Bradford McIntyre, Vancouver, Canada).
Susan and Bradford and other courageous people like them inspire people living with HIV/AIDS, helping them speak out ... and,as the campaign for 'speaking out' gathers momentum, it is hoped there will be no more incidents like the murder of Gugu Dlamini, who was killed by members of her community in South Africa, for going public about her HIV status on World AIDS Day, 1998.
Source: DEVELOPMENT GATEWAY
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