There was so much stigma out there when being young and openly gay. Unfortunately, one of the things that I would often hear from my teachers, parents, friends and family was: Don’t get AIDS. This only created fear within me, but I decided to turn it around to a learning opportunity. This resulted in the thesis for my high school senior project, where I covered different topics that this virus entails.
I learned that HIV can be transmitted through:
• Having unprotected vaginal or anal sex.
• Sharing needles or syringes for injection of drugs, tattoos, piercings, etc.
• Getting stuck with a needle that has blood infected with HIV.
• Getting HIV-infected blood, semen or vaginal fluids into sores or cuts in your body.
Becoming familiar with HIV/AIDS made me realize that there was not enough information out there for our marginalized communities. Helping at Rainbow Community Center as an intake volunteer when people would get tested for HIV and STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) was part of my education.
This is where my world changed, seeing fear in people’s eyes to know their status, having their family and partners finding out that they had been tested. Taking condoms home or even giving their first name or phone number out was stressful for some. Many individuals still feel unsafe due to all the stigma that has been created by media, health entities, religion and politics.
HIV is still affecting many intersectional communities, such as undocumented and uninsured individuals, men who have sex with men, people of color, straight folx, children and older adults. This only proves that HIV does not have a face or a certain community.
The stigma has been created by people trying to put a label or a community behind this virus.
World AIDS Day has been acknowledged worldwide every Dec. 1 since 1988. This is a day where we get to remember all those lives lost and those affected by HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). It is also a reminder to educate one another about preventative measurements such as PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis), getting tested regularly and other safer sex practices. You can learn more about our HIV/STI prevention services at www.rainbowcc.org/ hiv-support.
Christian Aguirre (he/him) is the adult and family program director at Rainbow Community Center. His passion is to serve the most marginalized LGBTQIA+ communities. Please direct any questions or comments to email@example.com.