We asked our social media followers, and they responded:
“I confront it head on from a place of strength. They can’t stigmatize me because I’ve always been open about my status. But I understand that comes from a place of privilege. So, I stand up for others who aren’t where I am.”
“I pause, I take a breath, then I educate!”
“The virus does not define me and I have many things to give, but I can't give anybody HIV!”
“I educate. That’s how I overcome stigma.”
“My perception of stigma is that it is based on misunderstandings and ignorance. It’s in people’s heads, and it’s just an opinion, and each one's opinion is their problem. Not mine.
“One cannot disagree with facts. I confront stigma with information. I educate myself and I know what is true and what is not about HIV and AIDS. This knowledge kills the fear.
“I was diagnosed with HIV already in the last stages of AIDS. Today, just a bit over two years later, I live a completely normal life. I’m healthier than I've ever been. I disclosed my HIV status publicly a few months ago and since then I can not only control the narrative but I can also help other people living with HIV feel more confident about themselves. HIV doesn't bring me any more harm; why would I let the opinion of others make any difference in my life? The stigma doesn't affect me because I don’t let it.
It has no power over me.”
“Stare them in the eye and ask, ‘What’s up?’ Educate!”
“Educate people on what living with HIV is like now—no longer a death sentence
“Yes, women with HIV can have babies who are HIV negative. Men with HIV, who are virally suppressed, can make babies without fear of passing the virus to the baby's mother or their baby.”
“I overcome by living life as the normal person I am.
I’m very open about my HIV status because I want no person to go through that diagnosis or disclosure alone. If people can hear my story and know that life can still be okay after HIV and hear my experience without having to go through it themselves, I feel I’m doing my job as a person with a voice in this world. I hope people know that whatever they are going through they will be okay as well. I overcome by being a mom to my three HIV-negative children and being a good wife to my husband who loves me so much and who sees me beyond my HIV. This year, I’m 19 years positive and I look forward to seeing what life throws at me because I know I will overcome. I’m Tamara and I am the Face of HIV.”
—Tamara D. Mayfield
“As a heterosexual married couple with us both 16 years into living with this diagnosis, we've had wild conversations with people dealing with external as well as internal stigma. Our answer to this question is confidence and education. First, being confident in your own skin and in knowing the real truth about people living with or someone in alliance with people living with HIV. Second, being educated on the subject and willing to educate those that only have incorrect or outdated information including myths and rumors about HIV. That is our formula for confronting and overcoming stigma.”
—Kalvin and Eunice Marshall
“I overcome by being part of a great heterosexual men with HIV group that just had a great event at the International Conference on Stigma.”
“My expectations make a difference in how others perceive me. I try to expect positive reactions, which means I don’t try to hide my HIV status or to be confrontational about it. I try to care more about others than about what others think. I show others I’m proud and grateful for my long-time survival status. And they respond accordingly most of the time.”
—Harry C S Wingfield
“I am open about who I love and my HIV status, and I will not give someone else power over my life. Besides, as I share my status, I become more free with very little push back. Stigma may be what you fear happening holding you back.”
“I stomp on stigma by showing my face and humanizing this condition.”
—Maria HIV Mejia
“I am Latino, I am gay, I am an immigrant, I am undetectable, I am a father, I am a grandfather, I am a Christian man, I am married. I love helping others because that's how I help myself. One thing I am not is HIV, because the virus I share my body with does not define me; I am a just a very normal human being living with HIV! ¿Comprende?”