By Liam Murphy - Head of Projects and Operations, LGBT HERO

Talk to someone living with HIV and they will likely tell you one thing; Living with the stigma can be harder than living with the virus. Despite advancements in treatment and prevention, people living with HIV still deal with abuse, whether it’s from our own community, on apps, on social media and ignorance from the general population. Yet so many people living with HIV fight stigma, ignorance and fear every day. Because it’s the right thing to do and because they have to.  

I’ve worked with LGBT HERO since 2014. I've worked on many projects for people living with HIV as part of the charity's GMFA project (the sexual wellbeing project for GBT+ men), including ‘The Undetectables’, ‘Living with HIV’, ‘My Life. My HIV.’, as well as countless issues of FS Magazine which published interviews and columns by people living with HIV. All this time, people living with HIV have put themselves at the forefront of these campaigns and articles to counter misinformation and fight HIV stigma.  

I’m proud of all the work we have done in partnership with people living with HIV. But here’s the thing: I’m not living with HIV. I’ve stayed behind the scenes. These stories aren’t mine. The stigma people living with HIV face isn’t something I’ve had to face. People living with HIV have put their heads above the parapet and people living with HIV have been the ones fighting the battle.   

But not this World AIDS Day.   

It’s time HIV-negative people, like me, those who have supported our HIV-positive community but let them be the face of fighting HIV stigma, to step out of the shadows and do the work too.  

Here’s why: HIV stigma doesn’t just impact people living with HIV. It impacts us all. Fear and stigma can prevent us from testing, it can stop us talking openly and honestly about sex and sexual health, it can stop us making connections, it can hurt and harm our family and friends. Let's not forget that HIV stigma can do untold damage to the mental health and wellbeing of people living with HIV - especially those newly diagnosed.   

Let’s give people living with HIV a break and let HIV-negative people educate other HIV-negative people about HIV-undetectable / U=U (undetectable = untransmittable) and fight the stigma HIV-negative people created. Let's stand beside people living with HIV and educate people together.  

Let’s tell people that someone living with HIV and on effective medication can’t pass on the virus through sex. Let’s tell people that those living with HIV now live long, healthy lives. Let’s tell people that the responsibility of HIV isn’t just on the shoulders of those living with it, it’s on us to choose an HIV prevention method that works for us, such as PrEP and/or condoms. Let’s tell people that discriminating against someone socially, sexually or romantically based on their HIV status is unnecessary, cruel and outdated.   

If you are HIV-negative and you see someone on a dating app make a disparaging comment about people living with HIV, if you hear a friend say something stigmatising, if you see someone spread misinformation on social media, then call it out. Correct them. Give them the right information.   

There are HIV-negative people who do this already. LGBT HERO created an information video for its ‘Me. Him. Us.’ project starring HIV-negative people which educates people about U=U (the impact of that video was very much welcomed from people living with HIV).  I also see education taking place all over social media and it’s fantastic. But often people living with HIV are left to fight their own battles.   

So, let’s step up and stand up for and stand with those in the LGBTQ+ community living with HIV and fight HIV stigma and misinformation this World AIDS Day and every day going forward.   

Find out more about what it means to be HIV-undetectable and find support for people living with HIV.

Support us this World AIDS Day and help us fight HIV stigma by donating to the GMFA appeal.