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GUEST WRITER, HADLEY EXPLORES STIGMA AND LANGUAGE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

It shouldn’t be a big deal, so I’m always so angry when I see gay men posting screenshots of some horrific abuse they face on dating apps and social media.

Perhaps the people who are dishing out these hurtful comments doesn’t see it as abuse – perhaps, their shallow-minded approach to ‘finding the one’ doesn’t allow them to understand that little positive sign. A positive HIV status: apparently it’s a real turn off (to say the least) for some people.

An example of stigma faced by positive people on social media and hook-up apps.
An example of stigma faced by positive people on social media and hook-up apps.

I think it’s disgusting that in 2016, men and women who are HIV positive face a torrent of rude and offensive comments, whether it be in person or online. The latter seems to be more fuelled and hurtful, given that many social media and hook-up app users, feel they have carte blanche when it comes to telling other people what they think of HIV and the thought of dating somebody who is HIV positive. Sadly these comments bring home just how much further we, a society, have to go.

As somebody who is HIV negative, I feel it’s almost my obligation to say something. Even as I thought about writing this article, I saw somebody tweet that they’d received online abuse because of their HIV status. So, here I am, letting you know that there are people out there who actually understand the basics of HIV. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It doesn’t mean you’ve slept around all your life. It doesn’t make you a drug addict. Nor does it mean you’re going to die of AIDS. Those four very simple sentences should feature in the next HIV campaign – I really feel the dating, gay public need to sit up and smell the truth about HIV. It’s really not that difficult, is it?

If I were to ask you the question “would you date somebody who told you they were HIV positive?” what would you say? I suppose if you were an average, decent guy you would discuss this with your potential partner and would learn more about HIV. On the other hand, if your reaction would be that of an online troll, for example, sadly I don’t think many people would want to date you. I guess it’s up to you to decide who you want to be: the decent guy or the online troll.

Let me put it to you like this: you’re a gay guy living in London and the guy you’ve been chatting to on Grindr has just told you he’s HIV positive. You think this is the most awful thing in the world and start typing a cascade of insults, as a means to put yourself above him, because clearly your presumed negative status trumps his positive one. You never talk about HIV and most of the ‘facts’ you know about it have been acquired from years of listening to other people’s poisonous dribble. Actually, when did you go for a HIV test? I’m not painting a very pretty picture here, am I?

Gay men should feel comfortable to disclose their HIV status and we should be encouraging an environment of openness around it. Yet for some reason, we’re creating an environment where people who are open about it feel as though they’re in the wrong, whilst others who were considering telling their partner, are now left wondering if they should or not.

You’re scared that you’re going to ‘catch’ HIV, so you think it’s a good idea to criticise those who openly tell you their status? In fact, what you’re doing is potentially putting yourself at risk of the very thing you’re scared of. As the next person who comes along may not tell you their status, because of the fear you’ve caused – and that ‘superior’ negative status you’ve been clinging to, will be all but a distant memory.

HadleyHadley is a freelance writer, based in London. He is a regular contributor at GuysLikeU, as well as writing for other LGBT publications. You can follow him on twitter as @wordsbyhadley

 

 

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