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‘I Prefer Not to Tell My [HIV] Status…’
Joshua, known by friends and family as Josh is not your typical 26-year-old brother. He’s ambitious, pursuing a modeling career, raising a daughter, and becoming a well-known advocate for HIV/AIDS. His advocacy work began when he found out he was HIV positive.
“I was trying to block everything out at first but then I thought, if people are gonna find out they’re going to hear it from me and not by somebody else.”
Boldly, Josh decided in 2011 to disclose his status on Facebook. He says, “I didn’t know how big that was going to be, people still to this day in-box me about HIV information. This lead to me doing a public service announcement about contracting HIV.”
And while he has no regrets regarding the disclosure on social media, he is cautious.
‘I prefer to not tell my status in person. I do it to protect me. By texting it I am showing that I disclosed my status so that there is proof in case something were to happen.’
But misconceptions and stigma of HIV persist, something Josh has experienced firsthand. He laments people often think ‘I am promiscuous because I am positive.’ The fact is anyone engaged in unprotected sex or sharing needles/syringes is at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
It’s key to note that HIV Criminalization Laws make HIV disclosure a touchy health and legal subject and has many implications for HIV positive individuals and their sex partners. And like many, Josh says, ‘I really just want to protect myself.’
Josh advocates personally and publicly for HIV prevention.
“I think the biggest protection we have is condoms, everybody should be using them. I feel like we are responsible for our own health and have to make choices that will keep us in good health.”
Linking people living with HIV to care is important, but equally important is the need for preventing new infections. Joshua reflects on his past behavior. “I really did not know much about HIV until I became positive. In high school I became a father and I really did not know much about sexual health and STD’s.”
Josh believes as do many public health experts that comprehensive sexual health education programs are critical for sexually active teenagers. He says HIV has changed his life, making him feel more aware of life, being more committed to making positive changes and living life fully!”
Brandon Brooks is a graduate of Drexel University’s School of Public Health, concentrating in Health Management and Policy.