I got my semi-annual HIV test yesterday, and it stuck with me all day. It seems, each time I get this done, I’m left mentally exhausted. There’s plenty of reasons for this. This time, though, it wasn’t necessarily about me and my results. Those were as expected. What I was stuck on all day long yesterday was how the results were delivered, and my thoughts on language.
Here’s what I posted on another blog I run:
I got my HIV test today. I do this every six months as a matter of course, especially when I find myself single. The whole experience has lingered on my mind all damn day, and I’m not exactly sure why.
See, I got a negative result on my test. In fact, the words from the nurse were this:
“So, your HIV test was negative, so that’s all good…” and then she continued to administer the other tests for the other STD’s I wanted to get checked for at the same time.
What stuck with me was her correlation between being HIV-negative and ‘good.’ Why did she have to say that? Why is a negative result on the test a ‘good’ thing?
Clearly, not having to deal with life as a person with HIV is less burdened that living as one with HIV. Clearly, I get why not having a positive result on this test is something to want.
What I don’t get, and what I’ve been struggling with all day, is why being HIV positive is considered not-good. I mean, the truth is this: many people that I have known, still know, and love to bits, are HIV-positive. They have a slightly different life than my own in that they are bound to consume medicine and be more aware of their personal health, perhaps, than I am, but are they not good people?
The stigma of having HIV is real. The rejection, the pain, being cast out, being judged, having your life assumed, is a thing and it needs to be combated at every turn.
I should have said something to the nurse who gave me my results.
It’s this stigma, and the idea of good vs. bad, or even good vs. evil, that has been echoing in my head all day. I know we have treated people with disabilities, or even just differences in appearance and lives, as beneath, or somehow less-than. I wonder when this will stop. I wonder when people, including myself, will be empowered enough with our words to remember that they carry a weight and power every time we use them. The least I can do is set an example.