On 1 March, Zero Discrimination Day, let’s talk about serophobia and HIV stigma.
Under the motto Zero discrimination, ONUSIDA (Spanish ONUAIDS) invites us to feel the diversity, to take part as butterflies who want to fly towards a more inclusive society. Indeed, understanding the value of diversity means flying towards freedom. Butterflies are born as caterpillars that turn into elegant beings, capable of flying higher and higher with their colorful wings. Taking the butterfly as an example, as a symbol of change, we ask society to take a stand and change into an affection-centered community.
A need, a challenge, a future: getting rid of discrimination of people that live with HIV.
Serophobia, a public health affair, increases our vulnerability, whether we are HIV+ or not. It is time for us to stop being vulnerable.
We HIV+ people should not be wondering how many times we will face discrimination from people we enjoyed a beautiful relationship with – “I’d rather not have sex with you, just in case…” “I like you but we can’t have a relationship for the sake of safety…”. We should not keep facing institutional mistreatment (being denied a residence permit, an adoption…), sanitary mistreatment (being denied assisted reproduction, problems with organ transplant, unacceptable protocols in tests and surgeries, rejection…) and mistreatment in the workplace (unlawful dismissal). We should not be under the constant pressure of revealing our HIV status in a society that has segregation as a goal (“You’ve lied to me, you should have told me before”), either. Ultimately, we should not realize that this society, unable to understand its own reality, is more destructive than the virus itself.
For HIV reality exists within our reality, whether we have HIV or not. People who understand ourselves as not HIV+ are also affected by serophobia – complacency or overconfidence that leads to unprotected sex activities; rejection of relationships with chemistry and potential.
People with serophobia link HIV to certain lifestyles and personalities – “My life doesn’t look like their lives, so I’m not in danger”. Unprotected sex activities are carried out because “I’m doing it with reliable lovers”, which actually means “My lovers are normal and can’t be HIV+”, as if HIV+ people could not bring good vibes with them (!?!). This overconfidence, which lacks of foundation on real criteria, is the main factor that leads to HIV transmission.
Just by these health vulnerabilities, there are the vulnerabilities that affect our emotional and sexual development, our potential as emotional beings. Because… what do we actually reject when we step away from a partner or a lover who happen to be HIV+? We do not let the relationship flow and we can possibly be depriving ourselves of a healthy and enriching relationship. The fact that someone has HIV is not an obstacle for a relationship with the focus on pleasure, complicity and affection. It can be, however, a challenge. It means getting rid of prejudice and getting involved with the other – liberation is always a challenge, flying is not an easy task. It is a challenge, but not an obstacle. The obstacle is discrimination that has its roots in fear. Thinking that we are not equal is what keeps us away from the butterfly example. Affection does not depend on HIV status. Relationships should not be poisoned by HIV stigma – if so, we force ourselves to live at ground level. When we get butterflies, we get butterflies!
Apoyo Positivo joins the Zero Discrimination Campaign and needs everyone’s participation. We count on all of you and we know you will talk about this with friends, special ones, lovers, partners… Visibility in social networks is important. We also count on our dear friend Rebeca, with her song Sientes mariposas (When you get butterflies), aimed for everyone that gets butterflies no matter the HIV status and the lack of equality. Does it give you butterflies? Do you feel them? Dou you feel their wings? You just need to open them and fly.