When a friend tells you that they have been diagnosed with a serious illness they are after support, someone to talk to and maybe even a shoulder to cry on. But those who announce that they have contracted HIV can be met with questions or judgement, and even find themselves shunned by friends.
This can be for any number of reasons, which range from the fact that HIV may have been contracted from sexual contact and people find that awkward to an unfounded fear of being infected. HIV can be seen as a ‘lifestyle illness’, something dirty or somehow being the person’s own fault. But this is to time for judgement.
This atmosphere surrounding HIV means that either people don’t talk to friends about their illness, or they do but find themselves isolated by the response. Many people have great friends who cannot do enough to help, but we still constantly hear stories about those who are HIV-positive being disowned by family, find themselves left out of events with friends or just dropping off the radar of a social group.
The awkwardness that people feel about the illness can lead some to convince themselves that a HIV-positive friend may be better working it out alone, may prefer to be left to their own devices or have other friends who must be looking after them. But, in most cases, this could not be further from the truth. People need to know they are supported and they need a variety of friends who can help with talking, practical issues (such as hospital or clinic visits) and access to services that are essential to their well-being.
At the raTrust we are working towards an end for the stigma around HIV, but we are not naive enough to think that it will simply go away without some action. This is why we are there as a friend for those who have a positive diagnosis when their friends cannot or will not be. We help many HIV-positive people every week, whether it is giving advice on healthcare or advice on safe ways to continue with a loving sex life.
Please help us to keep on doing this, by donating, sharing our message on social media or encouraging friends and colleagues to read our blogs.
Dominika Rejmer – Director and founder, The raTrust.