A once and future influencer rediscovers his power

It’s been nearly nine years since the last time we spoke. For the September+October 2015 issue, Waldie Murray talked with me about how he had turned to social media the year before as a way of processing the news that he had tested positive for HIV—he had gone on Facebook almost as soon as he had gotten home from the clinic where he’d been tested. But little more than a year after the story was published in POSITIVELY AWARE, he disappeared. Now, we reconnected, finding each other on social media, and catching up over Zoom.

‘I feel an impulse to create again.’—Waldie Murray

At the time of the 2015 story, Waldie had been out and open about his HIV status to his employer. When he left and started a new job in April 2017, however, he was concerned about how his new company might discover his status if they saw his social media and how it might affect his insurance.

“Part of it was also not being able to manage all of the people reaching out to me,” he says. “I was grateful that I could help a lot of people. But social media can be very anxiety inducing, even if you’re a person who wants to be a personality online. So, I kind of went away.”

He deleted his Facebook page, YouTube channel and all his other social media accounts. He had virtually vanished.

Fast forward to early 2019. Waldie was still living in Baltimore, where he had grown up, and met someone—a guy in the Navy who was stationed in Hawai’i and visiting the area—through a dating app. From their first encounter, they began a long-distance relationship.

They got together every few months. Skiing in Colorado. Spending Waldie’s birthday and Christmas in the Baltimore area. Not long afterward, his boyfriend retired and eventually moved to Maryland to be with Waldie. His boyfriend couldn’t take the mid-Atlantic winters, so in July 2022 the two moved to Honolulu.

Waldie’s HIV status was never an issue for his boyfriend. He had told his boyfriend very early on, and his boyfriend had already been taking PrEP.

“It’s very empowering that he understands that the onus is not just on me,” he says. “The fact that he’s taking his health in his own hands and respects our relationship to do his part—as I do my part, that’s really valuable.”

He was able to get a referral through his care provider back in Baltimore, Chase Brexton Health Care, who knew of a local provider.

He’s been taking the HIV medication Genvoya for so long, “I can’t remember when I started.” His provider recently recommended he switch to a long-acting injectable treatment regimen. “But my concern with the shot is I’m not certain if it’s covered by my insurance yet,” he says. “If it is covered by my insurance, I think I would be okay with that.”

Waldie first ventured onto social media in August 2013, with his own YouTube channel. So, in 2014 when he found out his HIV status, he posted a video about it. “That’s because I wanted to be transparent with the people who were already watching me. I felt like I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t share that.”

Now that years have passed since he left social media, he no longer feels pressure or anxiety, but he’s getting that old feeling.

“I feel an impulse to create again,” he says. “I feel the urge to do something very similar to what I used to do. Talking to folks on camera comes easily for me. I think I want to create more of a conversation, maybe interviewing. I’m not really sure how that’s gonna look.

“I had a little bit of a love-hate relationship with the idea of being an activist,” he adds. “I felt pressure. When I started my YouTube channel, I really wanted to express things that I was learning along the way, as me. And then at some point it became solely focused on HIV. In my mind, I think I was losing track of what I was doing because as an HIV activist, there were so many people who reached out to me. I was conflicted. Now, I think I can more easily manage the interaction between myself and social media. I’m more sure of myself. Now that I’ve done it once, I’m like, if I embark on this again, I’m well equipped, mentally and emotionally.”

That increased visibility also applies to the real world. “When I moved here, no one knew my status. After establishing a core group of friends over a few months, I disclosed it to them,” he says. “Some responded with a bit of shock. I didn’t ask why. Maybe they just weren’t prepared when I said, I want to share something with you. It might come as a surprise, but I want to share it because we’re close friends.

“One of my close friends here is also living with HIV,” he adds. “I had a heart to heart with him. It was really nice to be able to have someone who understands mentally and emotionally what it’s like. He’s very open about his status, too. It’s super empowering for me to be around people who are putting themselves out there that way.

“Back when I first found out my status,” he continues, “in the first few years, and probably up until meeting my partner, there was anxiety about meeting someone.”

Having lived there now for over a year, as he makes new friends, Waldie is building his own community and finding a place for himself.

“I want to add my voice to make sure that people are informed,” he says.

Waldie was 27 when he was first interviewed for POSITIVELY AWARE. He turned 36 in November, so I asked him the question he had recently posted on social media—Where are you in your arc?

“I love this question so much because it really gets you thinking,” he says, smiling. “I feel like I have very recently discovered my own power after being dormant for a while. And by very recently, I mean just the other day. The conversation with you ignited this impulse to look at old videos and pictures of me. And I was like, Wow, I really put myself out there, no fear at all.

“I saw this spark that I’m inclined to revive again,” he adds. “As far as this arc, it’s like [in The Wizard of Oz] when Glenda tells Dorothy that she’s had the power the whole time. Dorothy’s like, and I’m paraphrasing. I could’ve clicked my heels this whole time and gone home? Why didn’t you tell me? And Glenda says, Oh, you wouldn’t have believed me. So it’s like, okay, I went through that entire journey, and we’re back at Oz. Where am I going now? It’s a brand new adventure. I’ve discovered that I’ve had this power the whole time. Now what? I think I’m going to be creating again. I think I’m going to be putting myself out there again with the power I’ve found as a result of that time away.”

Since the time of this interview, there were significant new changes in his life, so we spoke again, this time over the phone, in late January. Waldie and his partner ended their relationship in December 2023. “We don’t have any bad feelings towards each other,” he says. “We’re very amicable. As for the arc of my journey, it’s very focused on my wellbeing.”

He has started seeing a therapist for the first time in his life. And after a DJ friend invited him to try it, he’s now DJ’ing once a month at an LGBTQ+ bar in Honolulu.

“A few months after I moved to Hawai’i, I started to feel really grounded here, like I belong here at this point in my journey,” he says. “I started to create my own community, having my own group of people that I am connected to. I lived in Baltimore for so long that when I moved to Hawai’i, you would think that this would’ve been a fish out of water story, but I actually feel like this is a fish who found water story. I have never felt more myself.” 

Read the 2015 interview with Waldie Murray: positivelyaware.com/articles/shared-experience