Put the “Living” in “People Living with HIV”

This is Part 2 of the five-part statement “Five Things Media Makers Can Do NOW to Stand Up to HIV Stigma.” Read the full statement as a single article

  1. #WeAreAllPeople: Put the “Living” in “People Living with HIV”

From the beginning of the epidemic, HIV in the US has been perceived by some people as a moral issue and not a human one.  People with HIV need the media to recognize, report, and share our stories as the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, neighbors, and grandparents that we are.

More often than not, those of us who are people living with HIV are framed in media as monsters, infected, dirty, predatory, and more. Those who are reported as having acquired HIV – or having been intimate with a person with HIV – are labeled as victims or as having been preyed upon. In truth, people living with HIV are just that: people. HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus that attacks the CD4 cells within a PERSON. And many of our partners choose to be with us because they love us and it is not “risky” to be intimate with us.

HIV is no longer the “death sentence” it was once thought to be. It is a chronic illness that can be managed with proper care and medication. Today, people living with HIV are doing just that and beyond; they are thriving. The life expectancy of a person living with HIV who takes medication is about the same in the US as those who are negative.

When reporting on a story, it is crucial that media makers actually talk to a person living with HIV in order to get an accurate reflection of life beyond the diagnosis of HIV. It is a common occurrence that most people did not educate themselves about HIV until they received a diagnosis. They are not at fault. Many people who acquired HIV state they never believed it could happen to them – in part because messages received through media imply that people living with HIV are somehow different from those who are not, when HIV status is the only difference. Therefore:

a. Coverage of people living with HIV should highlight accomplishments and achievements that are not focused on the virus.

b. Stories of people living with HIV should include our strength, survival, and courage.

c. The media could promote the importance of ending stigma, to create environments safe for knowing one’s status, HIV testing, and open communication with partners.


Like what you’ve read? Share this statement on Twitter, Facebook, and beyond using the hashtag #StandUptoHIVStigma!


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