Whenever we divulge our HIV status we never can predict what reaction we get. But we all know that there are common questions that people ask. Sometimes, those questions can be personal, uncouth, and/or downright rude. I have several friends that I’ve known for years that don’t even recognize their own ignorance and assumptions when posing their questions to me about HIV. But this is not about what is “right.” This is about educating people on HIV (and maybe throwing a little bit of “shade” in there, too!).
So this month we are going to delve into the top seven questions people have asked when revealing your HIV status and the answers that an HIV-positive individual could use as a retort.
Question: How long do you have to live?
Answer: I don’t know, how long do you have to live?
Now, this question was asked by a relative and I thought it was revealing how uneducated he was. Please keep in mind that nobody knows when they are going to die. When my relative asked me this question I was about twenty-six and this was the best way I knew how to answer this question at the time.
Question: Is the reason why you are skinny because of HIV?
Answer: No, my parents just have the body of gods—what’s your excuse?
Society has made it socially acceptable to be slender but that, by no means, should justify someone using the word “skinny” to describe another person. The word “fat” is used to describe someone that is outside of society’s norm of what a body should look like—well, so is skinny. The word “fat” is usually used in a derogatory manner to describe someone’s body, and, well, so is skinny. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone describe another as “that skinny bitch” or “that fat bitch.” All in all it’s wrong.
Question: Do you tell everyone you have sex with that you have HIV?
Answer: Do you tell everyone you have sex with that you don’t have HIV?
I find it interesting that people are more concerned with your sex life when you are HIV-positive. But, honestly, if we want a world to have full disclosure with our sexual activities, proclivities, and natures then it must be all the way around. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.
Question: Do you still have sex?
Answer: I don’t know—am I still alive? (You should answer this question while giving a side eye for effect.)
HIV-positive persons have the same sexual desires as everyone else. When I see a hot guy/lady, yes, I might get wet on both ends and my mouth might start to water, as well. Of course, sex is and will always be thought of when I see a hot person walk by. We are still alive and we still have sexual needs.
Question: Is you partner HIV-positive, too?
Answer: That is a question you should be asking them.
I’ve encountered this question more often than not. But, luckily, you can throw the ball in someone else’s court and keep it moving.
Question: You’re going to tell the new person you’re dating that you’re HIV-positive, right?
Answer: When I’m ready and when the moment is appropriate to discuss with them, which this is not.
Though I concur that honesty is the best policy, everyone who is HIV-positive has their own time in which they would like to divulge their HIV status to a potential sexual partner. It’s nobody’s business when you plan on revealing your HIV status to anyone.
Question: There is a cure for HIV—did you hear about it?
Answer: Obviously not, because I would not be HIV-positive right now.
You may get people telling you that there is a currently affordable cure that is accessible to the general population. I have gotten many e-mails stating that there is a witch doctor in Africa claiming they have a cure. I suggest deleting that conversation as fast as I delete those emails.
Justin B. Terry-Smith, MPH, has been fighting the good fight since 1999. He’s garnered recognition and awards for his work, but he’s more concerned about looking for new ways to transform society for the better than resting on his laurels. He started up in gay rights and HIV activism in 2005, published an HIV-themed children’s book, I Have A Secret (Creative House Press) in 2011, and created his own award-winning video blog called, “Justin’s HIV Journal”: justinshivjournal.blogspot.com. Presently, he is working toward his doctorate in public health. Visit his main Web site at www.justinbsmith.com. He welcomes your questions at [email protected].