GMFA Living With HIV: think of the bigger picture By Liam Murphy | @liamwaterloo I recently developed and launched a new campaign for GMFA addressing the stigma faced by people living with HIV (which is appropriately called ‘Living With HIV'), which includes a video that can be viewed here. The video features a bunch of brilliant and brave gay men being open about their HIV status and declaring to the world that they may be living with HIV but it doesn’t stop them living their lives. Who could argue with such a life-affirming, hopeful message? Well, the internet. While most of the responses have been ones of support and praise, there have been some who…aren’t quite getting the message. And then there have been some who have criticised us for ‘trivialising’ HIV, such as: There have even been responses suggesting which should be making people more fearful of HIV. Here’s the problem with that (people still saying “epic fail” aside): People living with HIV are humans Those living with HIV aren’t to be feared, reviled or attacked for a virus they happen to have. They deserve respect, love, sex and happiness, just like anyone else. Perhaps before commenting or forming an opinion about something you don’t quite yet understand, take a moment to educate yourself, remember they are real people with real feelings and maybe think about how your judgement makes you less of a human and a little bit more of a monster. Making people fearful of HIV harms us all The problem with the accusations that we are ‘normalising’ HIV is that if we make people fearful of it, it not only stigmatises and ostracises people living with HIV, it may also discourage others from getting tested and knowing their status. We could go back to the time of the ‘tombstone’ ads but the truth is, HIV is no longer a death sentence. If you’re on effective treatment, you can lead and live a full life. If people are too scared to get tested because HIV is this terrifying monster, they could be living with it and not know it. By demystifying HIV and by showing people living full lives and that it's not a 'death sentence', it could encourage others to find out their status. Effective HIV treatment is a prevention If you’re diagnosed with HIV you can begin treatment and if the treatment is effective, then you can reduce your viral load to an undetectable level. Once your viral load is undetectable the chances of passing on HIV sexually is pretty much zero (The PARTNER study found no cases of HIV transmission from an HIV-positive partner on treatment whose viral load was low enough to be considered undetectable). The more people that know their status and can begin treatment, the less chance HIV can be passed on. This is why taking the fear out of HIV is better for us all. So let's all show people living with HIV the love they deserve, celebrate their openness, educate ourselves about HIV and perhaps take a brief moment to look at the bigger picture before typing out your words on social media platforms. Or, if you’re not sure, ask someone or don’t comment on social media at all (but please do share this on social media – thanks).