Project HIM debuted Troy’s video at Pride. In the video, Troy shared that someone he slept with had been with an HIV + partner and that he was nervous about the possible risk of HIV. What wasn’t shared was that Troy was nervous because he’d slipped up and had sex without a condom with the guy he slept with.
This omission caused a stir on Project HIM’s Facebook page. Some comments on Facebook made it clear that there were people living with HIV that were hurt by the content of the video. A few of the comments became heated to the point where battle lines were drawn between those who are HIV-positive and those who work to prevent HIV. (To read all the comments, see the June 9th post on Project HIM’s Facebook page. Link)
Divisiveness hurts us all.
We apologize to those who were hurt by the video. Project HIM staff care about people –whether you’re positive, negative, or don’t know your status. In response to the expressed hurt, the video was temporarily disabled.
Truth be told, there’s more to the video. Another segment that explains Troy’s slip ups and gives some background about Troy isn’t through with our videographer’s refinements yet. When it is, the two segments of the video will be presented together.
Notably, all the videos produced by Project HIM and any educational materials we distribute undergo a mandatory review process by the Materials Review Committee for the Iowa Department of Public Health. In addition, Project HIM’s advisory committee, a group of gay men of various ages, professional backgrounds, and varying HIV status, review and provide feedback on each video’s content.
Inevitably though, questions still surface: How do we react when the personal stories shared by others aren’t exactly how we (as HIV prevention staff) think we might respond (armed with the knowledge and experience of working in the field of HIV prevention)? Do we jump in and explain—or uphold the dignity and worth of each person’s story —as it is? There’s no perfect answer.
Each misstep is an opportunity for healing and change.
Project HIM hopes to make the hurt and anger —the underlying passion—a starting place for conversation. Do we have to stigmatize HIV in order to prevent HIV? How can we work together as a community? These are the questions we’d like to discuss at a forum this fall that brings together HIV prevention, HIV care, those living with HIV, and those who are not. We can’t move forward together if we don’t tackle the thorns that keep hurting us.
Before Troy’s story was debuted, Project HIM and its advisory committee developed the summer campaign “Know Pride. Know your status.” We wanted to take away the stigma of HIV status and emphasize the importance of knowing what your status is. A disproportionate amount of new HIV infections happen because of those who have HIV but don’t know it. People who are HIV +, know that they are, and are getting treatment, aren’t spreading the virus and chances are they’ll live a long and healthy life—just as Troy astutely notes at the end of his second video.
Pride is knowing. Pride is taking charge of your health—whether you’re negative or positive. At this critical time in history, having experienced the repeal the of DOMA, what better to do than to take pride in who we are and push the stigmas we’ve all felt to the periphery—while we move toward the center. Where we can stand united.