An Australian man 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 “Talking About Stigma” film series by Queensland Positive People, Australians living with HIV share their stories of stigma, vulnerability and resilience, to call on the community to tackle the stigma and increase HIV testing.
“I took part in the Talking About Stigma project to do anything that is within my power to lessen the impact that stigma has on our community,” Aaron said.
“Stigma can play a huge part in how a person lives with HIV. My hope is for this video to reinforce the message to our community, that who we are is so much more than the virus we walk our journey with.”
Last November, Aaron and three other HIV-positive men hiked more than 180 kilometres across the Victoria-South Australia border as part of a campaign to show HIV positive people can stay healthy into old age if they get tested, get on treatment and take care of their health.
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 Aaron’s story below: