Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

HERO HIV Panel Discussion

Last night I attended a panel discussion hosted by our home town HEROs (Human & Equality Rights Organization). The panel was composed of six different individuals that were all HIV positive. Unlike most HIV discussion forums, this group stayed away from statistics and infection avoidance talks. They wanted to focus more on the social implications of the disease. So each person on the panel told there stores. They all gave us a glimpse in there world since they were infected.

Some of the stories I heard were simply horrific. The very first story I heard was from Corey. After coming out to his parents he was immediately told, "Please don't tell anyone from the church." His family was more concerned about how they would be viewed from church members than they were about there son's welfare. For many of us, one of the few things that comforts us in times of trouble is spirituality. And low and behold, Corey discovers he is HIV positive and he is denied his religion. Interesting how that happens.

Then came the story from Charles. His story was even more terrible. Everything changed after disclosing his HIV status to his family. He was told not to touch the kids (I guess there was a fear he could transmit the disease through a hug). At special family gatherings when everyone else was eating off the fine china, he was give paper plates and paper cups. And if there were ever an occasion when he had to go to the restroom it was immediately followed by the sing and toilet being bleached.

Matt told us about the emotional stress he went through after he discovered he cero-conversion. He went several years without having sex because he thought he would never be able to have intercourse ever again. He also believed he was not worthy of a relationship because he saw himself as damaged goods. It was the, "why would someone want to go with me" syndrome.

I want to say that luckily not all the stories were about rejection and depression. Some people told of how supportive there families were. But I have to say that there were more bad examples than good. But there was glimmer of hope in hearing the good. It was a powerful evening and I'm glad I was present to hear what the guys had to share. It can not be easy to stand before a group of people don't know and share these private, intimate stories about yourself. Everyone that attended walked away changed by the experience. Thanks to the guys of HERO for organizing this discussion. It was an amazing evening.

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