An Australian man living with HIV has opened up about his experiences after his HIV diagnosis in the latest instalment of a short film series calling on people to unite against HIV stigma.
In the video, José opens up about his HIV diagnosis 22 years ago, his relationship with his longtime partner Carlos and his struggle as a person living with HIV to get his visa approved to migrate with Carlos to Australia from Venezuela.
“I applied for my partner visa and as a part of the process I disclosed my HIV positive status,” he explained.
“After three years, my visa was rejected on health grounds. It was the worst case of stigma that I had ever experienced in my life.
“We’re not talking about a job, we’re talking about the rest of my life in a country that is supposed to be free. I’m gay, I’m HIV positive and my partner is HIV negative. We have a beautiful relationship and my visa was rejected because of my HIV.”
He added, “For me, stigma is just the result of fear and ignorance about a health condition like many others out there.
“Let us make peace with ourselves, embrace our lives and be happy with what we have. Let us start teaching people around us that someone living with HIV is as normal as everyone else.
“Own your personal journey with courage and be proud of who you are, then people will start loving you and we all can keep spreading the message. We are all equal, we are all human beings.”
In the “Talking About Stigma” film series by Queensland Positive People, a group of Australians living with HIV share their stories of stigma, vulnerability and resilience, to call on the community to tackle the stigma and increase rates of HIV testing.
QPP’s Simon O’Connor said stigma around HIV remains an “aggravatingly persistent hurdle” that impedes the fight against the virus.
“Stigma happens at many levels: within employment, within healthcare settings and other institutions, within community, and at the personal level,” he said.
“In turn, people living with HIV can internalise the community’s perceptions of HIV which results in internalised stigma and very real feelings of anxiety, social isolation and psychological distress.”
The first instalment of the series featured former footy player Matt Hall, who was diagnosed with HIV at age 23 and his fight to overturn his 1998 ban by the AFL because of his status.
Watch José’s story below, and watch the full series at the Queensland Positive People’s website.