Four years ago today, I shared “Life By Zen: My Personal Story” and “Life By Zen: My Personal Story: Part II” a personal family story related to HIV/AIDS. Since then I have not written another post as personal nor felt moved to write a follow-up post. The posts were a lot to write and share publicly but it was and is still important to share it with countless others.
In a conversation with a friend a few months ago, I said that HIV/AIDS is not discussed as much anymore. Part of the assumption most people have is that Magic Johnson looks fine so he must be cured of AIDS. Even in 2015, there is also the ridiculous thinking that it is just a gay disease.
The latter is partially why I was moved to write my family’s story. I felt the urgency to inform many that the face of AIDS can be young, old, man, woman, gay, straight, married, white, black, Jewish, Catholic – it can be anyone, anywhere. I remember feeling so frustrated and angry reading and hearing some of the ignorant comments on social media. It was so unfortunate to see so many lack sex and health education. This, too, pushed me to share our story.
A few weeks ago, I was angry all over again like I was four years ago. Charlie Sheen announced publicly he has HIV. This time, I was angry for a different reason. Some of the negative comments shamed him for his reckless behavior that put him at risk. Yes, he engaged in risky activities that exposed him to the virus, but what good does it do to shame an HIV positive person?
Yes, I commend Charlie on his bravery to publicly share his positive status and face those who sought to blackmail him about it, BUT I am not saying he deserves a medal or a cookie for it. I recognize that it certainly took a lot of courage. There are millions today living with HIV, most are very private about their positive status. They came to my mind as I listened to the HIV shaming as certainly the comments affected them deeply. The awful shaming is why many never reveal their positive status and some end up falling deeper in to depression that may result in harmful decision-making.
On this World AIDS Day 2016, it is saddening to know that not much has changed and there is still so much more sex and health education needed.