Silent No More: The Perspective of Heterosexual Men Living with HIV
by Temitope Creppy, Senior, Howard University
“I was refused treatment because I refused to say I was homosexual.” These are the words of a 50-year-old African-American man diagnosed with HIV who was wrongly discriminated against and denied medical treatment due to stigma that persists in the healthcare environment. Healthcare professionals doubted his relationship with his wife, and people in his daily life still consider him homosexual because he lives with HIV. Unfortunately, across the country this is the reality of a majority of heterosexual men who live with HIV and experience stigma on a day-to-day basis. A Howard University workgroup named Positive EntreEmpowerment Heterosexual Men’s Workgroup and their associated Straight and Positive support group, support heterosexual men living with HIV and combating the stigma they face on a day-to-day basis. The workgroup consists of primarily men from around the country, largely from Cleveland, Ohio, Texas, and Florida ranging from those who have been living with HIV for several decades to recently diagnosed individuals. The group is inclusive of all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Stigma is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as: a set of negative and unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something. In the more than four decades of the HIV Pandemic, the medical, scientific and communities most impacted by HIV have made incredible strides; moving us from what was once death sentence, to now a manageable chronic condition. That progress has been unequal across race, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and geographic location due to several factors but one of the primary culprits remains from the earliest days of the HIV pandemic, HIV-related stigma.
Since becoming public with my HIV status just this last fall, I find myself in a place of discovery. What does my life look like without keeping HIV a secret? How does the vulnerability uncovered become an asset to my gifts sharing in a world in much need of safe vulnerability? How do I extend to others while not lessening self care of less stimulation and information from social media? Aging with HIV- what is the best support for my own mental health?
I am grateful to Howard University, Who Can You tell? program, The Well Wisdom Project, Positive Women’s Network and more recently NAMI, “National Association for Mental Illness. These organizations provide inspiring Peer Support. Peer Support utilizes one’s life experiences as a gift to listen and share with others hopes, dreams, loss, disappointment and despair. Living with HIV for 20 years, I’ve done “therapy” many years of my life, and the exchange of Peer Support has been remarkable. Peer Support is an exchange between peers with similar lived experience. These “undesirable” experiences strengthen personal resilience to be an ally for others that are experiencing difficulty. I don’t have to have the exact experience of another to have common feelings of separateness, despair, not being enough, or without community. Peer Support holds space for another’s challenges, sees them as a worthy human being, and knows they have capacity to live life with joys and grief, and that there is hope in living a more joyful life.
Latinos United Against HIV Stigma is a focused workgroup with the mission of working to get rid of the stigma HIV carries. We strive to eradicate the stigma and discrimination those who don’t understand the disease have through education and involvement. We also work to reduce internalized stigma those with HIV may feel towards themselves. HIV is a human disease that can happen to anyone. Regardless of one’s diagnosis, everyone should be treated equitably without facing the threat of discrimination throughout society. It is important for the Latino community, specifically to come together and work on breaking down stereotypes present within our own families, neighborhoods, and workplaces. This group is open to anyone who’s willing to work with the Latino community to help actualize our goal of getting rid of HIV related stigma and stereotypes.
Message from the PostitiveEntrempowerment Heterosexual Men’s Workgroup
“If you are not at the Table you are on the Menu.” This terminology sounds familiar to many, but what happens when you, ”ARE NOT ON THE MENU.” Heterosexual men are not included in research, prevention, care, vaccine trails, biomedical prevention, when it relates to studies and clinical trials.
Therefore left out of these important strategies of Ending the HIV epidemic, the internal and external stigma permeates further. Many programs are linked to certain modes of transmission, and exclude others. The time has come for inclusion of the Denver Principles and MIPA as it relates to Heterosexual Men. We know there are special populations that will receive more attention, but we cannot negate the aspect of the need for equity. We are not asking for equality.
“If you have a stereotype message thrown at you often enough it can start to
sink in, like maybe it’s really true about you. When it isn’t.”
The many ways that people negatively stereotype, denigrate, and discriminate against each other based on social identities or personal situations is called “societal stigmatization” or just “stigma.” Whether around HIV, mental health, race, gender, religion, or anything else, the harm done by oppression is hurtful and dangerous.
This harm is compounded by internalized stigma – when a person absorbs negative stereotypes from their social environment into their thinking about themselves as true. Also called “self stigma,” internalized stigma can be about any disparaged social identity (e.g., internalized racism, internalized sexism, internalized homophobia, etc.) or health or life condition. For example, it is estimated that over 40% of people living with schizophrenia have moderate or high levels of internalized stigma (Brohan et al., 2010), and over 79% of individuals living with HIV endorse one or more HIV-related stigma statements (Baugher et al., 2017). Such internalized stigma is directly related to subjective distress and negative health outcomes, noted below.
Say it Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud
By Pastor Sande Bailey-Gwinn
February 7 we rally together for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (#NBHAAD), observed annually on this date to increase awareness, spark conversations, highlight the work to reduce HIV in Black or African American communities in the United States, and show support for people who are living and thriving with HIV in these communities. [read more]
November 15-19, 2021, Virtual Event
The 12th annual Howard University International Conference on Stigma was held as a virtual 5-day event again this year. The event included research plenary sessions, panels, and workshops, a town hall, entertainment, artwork, and a lively international session. The conference had more than 700 registrants. Participants logged in from at least 32 countries and territories!
From our 2021 attendees:
” This conference was amazing as always! I loved the addition of the Hip-Hop session and hope to have more sessions on the influence of pop culture/media related topics on stigma. Would also love more sessions on mental health.”
November 16-20, 2020, Virtual Event
The 11th annual Howard University International Conference on Stigma was held as a virtual event for the first time ever. Using the Whova app, our one-day event was successfully expanded to a five-day event. The event included research plenary sessions, panels, and workshops, a town hall, entertainment, artwork, and a lively international session with nine nations represented. The conference had 1571 registrants, with at least 1100 people attending at least one session. Participants logged in from at least 14 countries and territories.