Click on an image below to jump to the model of your choice and find out about their thoughts on HIV stigma:


Occupation: Pornstar

How long have you been living with HIV?: "About 7 years now."

Have you ever faced HIV stigma?: "I've only ever experienced it since publicly 'coming out' as HIV-positive a couple of months ago. The anonymous views and opinions of the online public are an important way of gauging where society is at with their tolerance, acceptance and knowledge, and if feels as if we have a long way to go."

How do you handle HIV stigma?: "I educate generally. The stigma is based upon ignorance and to argue with ignorance or become irate is ignorance itself."

Has your status ever impacted your sex life?: "Easy one. Nope!"

How has your status impacted your life in general?: "I got a well needed brush with morality. It's made me more humble, more accepting, more knowledgeable and more patient."

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?: "That truly depends on who they are and what they are feeling. We all deal with things differently. I'd like to tell them that I'm here, I'm healthy, I'm 'clean' and I'm happier than ever."


Occupation: Community Sports Coach and Bar Supervisor

How long have you been living with HIV?: "Three and a half years."

Have you ever faced HIV stigma?: "When I was on a date, I kissed him and I told him. He fell off his chair and said 'you've infected me'. I smiled, paid and left."

How do you handle HIV stigma?: "I try and educate people as much as I possibly can but when people are too blasé to throw stigma, I serve up some tea."

Has your status ever impacted your sex life?: "I think in the first year, I was more cautious and I definitely felt tainted until I acquired enough knowledge to feel comfortable having sex."

How has your status impacted your life in general?: "Day to day, Not much has changed..."

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?: "Everyone deals with their diagnosis in a different way, and don't beat yourself up. You can live a near normal life and do anything you want."


Occupation: Sales - Novelty Gifts

How long have you been living with HIV?: "Three years.: 

Have you ever faced HIV stigma?: "I once went on a date which was going well until I told him about my status. It nose bombed and he was no longer interested."

How do you handle HIV stigma?: "I try and educate people about it - its the best way to break stigma! The more people know the better."

Has your status ever impacted your sex life?: "I think at the beginning it did but this was more to do with me than anything. If people don't like it than they are not the kind of people I want to connect with."

How has your status impacted your life in general?: "I don't believe it has. Why should it?"

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?: "Don't let it be a problem because it isn't. This was something I had to learn. You are no different."


Occupation: Not able to work

How long have you been living with HIV?: "I received my diagnosis on November 1 2005, just after 4.00 pm. I had acquired HIV during the proceeding six months and I opted to participate in a 5 year trial, SPARTAC. I have been on meds since spring 2007 and when my CD4 count went to below 250."

Have you ever faced HIV stigma?: "I'm fortunate in that I can say I've not experienced stigma in either a workplace or when accessing services, such as housing. Interestingly in the early days following my diagnosis I did encounter a GP practice nurse who demonstrated through what she said that she did not fully understand the condition. I think what made the situation feel worse is that she laughed in a failed attempt to shrug off criticism when challenged. I recall while taking meds as part of the clinical trial, and which had to be stored in the fridge at that time, I declined an invitation to spend Christmas 2005 with my mum - I didn't want to disclose to her. It turned out to be her last Christmas as she died of cancer in the following spring."

How do you handle HIV stigma?: "Since most of my experiences of stigma are through online dating apps, I tend not to follow up when the conversation from the other guy suddenly dries up following disclosure. In all probability I face more stigma about my age than my status on the scene!"

Has your status ever impacted your sex life?: "Yes, particularly in the early days following diagnosis, and less so now. This was mainly psychological; For a long while I avoided intimate encounters as I felt unable to fully connect on a personal level with another man, opting for random, anonymised sex in saunas. Over time I realised this was repeating past habits, and those which led to me acquiring HIV in the first place. With online dating apps I find that many guys are open about their status now, and that makes the decision as to whether to disclose or not easier for me."

How has your status impacted your life in general?: "This is a difficult question for me to answer and it requires openness and honesty. It is important to state that HIV affects people in different ways, and while many experience few, if any health problems associated with either the condition itself or the medication, some people do develop health problems. Over time I have been diagnosed with low bone mineral density, and testosterone deficiency. I have arthritis affecting most of my joints and peripheral neuropathy in my legs and arms. I also have diabetes type 2 and Fybromyalgia - muscle weakness and pain, with chronic fatigue. I also experience mouth sores, such as hairy leukoplakia and have asthma, COPD, and sleep apnoea. For the past five years I have been treated for persistent anal pre-cancer associated with HPV (human papilloma virus), strain 16, a side effect of the laser surgery has been episodes of incontinence. Some of my health conditions are completely separate to to HIV and would have arisen regardless of status. In the context that I experience depression and anxiety, there is a correlation between my physical and mental health. I have recently been through rehabilitation for alcohol addiction and have been abstinent for over six months with the continued support of alcohol support and recovery services in Haringey, with which I now do some voluntary work."

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?: "Talk. Talk again. And Talk some more! Talk about it with healthcare professionals who can give all the assurances that it is possible to live a long and (for the most part) healthy life. Ask for one to one counselling if still worried and join a local peer support group. Resist reading endless online articles which can overload the mind and lead to anxiety, particularly for those who are naturally anxious. Knowledge and healing comes with time. Talking with those who know about HIV is the best way to educate and learn to live with HIV. Above all HIV is a part of us; it doesn't define us."


Occupation: Writer

How long have you been living with HIV?: "I was diagnosed positive on the 9th of December last year."

How do you handle HIV stigma?: "It depends on the situation. I believe that there is a time and a place for everything. Sometimes fighting fire with fire results in nothing more than a hand full of burns victims. Sometimes you can cause more damage by arguing back so you really need to read the scenario before engaging much like you would if you were going to talk about race or politics."

Has your status ever impacted your sex life?: "There was this one time I met a guy in the club and after telling him about my status he started to back away and lose interest in me but I didn't take it to heart. At the end of the day there will will always be risks in getting involved with someone that has HIV no matter how high or low they are and I have to respect that."

How has your status impacted your life in general?: "I guess the biggest impact has come from having my status outed by somebody else on Facebook. It has made me so much less judgemental of others and a much better person generally speaking."

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?: "Just own it. You are no less of a human being just because you have HIV you should never let someone make you feel as though you are of lesser value because of your diagnosis."


Occupation: Communication Designer

How long have you been living with HIV?: "One year. Ironically I was diagnosed last year while working on a World AIDS Day campaign for GMFA and FS!"

Have you ever faced HIV stigma?: "I can’t actually say I had faced stigma, at least not from someone close to me. Luckily in this day and age, especially on a developed city like London, information is everywhere and people tend to know someone that also lives with HIV or have some basic knowledge about it. Of course, there is always that person that wells up when you disclose your status thinking it means I am about to die but I tend to assure them that will have to put up with me for many years."

How do you handle HIV stigma?: "If someone is being mean for no reason I just ignore it or tackle it with some humour. If I can tell that a comment is due to some lack of knowledge or misconception, I tend to provide some information and sometimes requires me doing some research too which ends up bringing a positive input for both of us."

Has your status ever impacted your sex life?: "It definitely did. I am more conscious and educated about STIs and sex in general. I seek professional advice more often and as result I feel more confident."

How has your status impacted your life in general?: "Upon my diagnosis I decided to take a week off from work to make sure I had time to process everything emotionally. It was an interesting journey of introspection and reflection and I came out stronger, more confident and made very good friends along the way (especially with one person that was last year doing this exact same photoshoot)."

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?: "You will be OK. Take some time to yourself and make sure you feel every part of the process, do not suppress your emotions. Turn off Google and seek out for someone who actually knows about what they are talking about - seeking out for someone living with HIV was the best thing I could have done. I would probably suggest you to disclose your status to those closer to you because it will take a huge weight from your shoulders and will help others understand you better. You will probably will be surprise how supportive and ok people are with it."


Occupation: Actor

How long have you been living with HIV?: "Ten years."

Have you ever faced HIV stigma?: "Every time I turn on Scruff? I've definitely been in conversation with people who immediately freak out and jump ship when I tell them I'm HIV-positive."

How do you handle HIV stigma?: "Usually I ignore it. If it's impersonal or someone I've never met (as in dating apps), because I figure why try to change someone's mind who doesn't want to be changed. But if it is someone I know a little or a friend, I will definitely try to educate and answer any questions, no matter how basic."

Has your status ever impacted your sex life?: "Sure...I've definitely thought twice about dating someone who is HIV-negative. Its not that I wouldn't, but there's a shorthand that makes the conversation a little easier. The availability of PrEP has made serodiscordant relationships so much more accepted."

How has your status impacted your life in general?: "I find that its made me more conscious of my health in general. It's inspired me to take better care of myself mentally, physically, and spiritually."

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?: "Don't panic! There is an amazing support system of people who are out there to help you through the transition. They're out there, and don't be afraid to ask for help or advice."


Occupation: Retail Manager

How long have you been living with HIV?: "Two and a half years."

Have you ever faced HIV stigma?: "The day after my diagnosis I disclosed to my work. I'd returned four days prior due to a break and found myself upon return doing five others jobs due to some of my team being signed off with stress. With a multi-million store and 37 staff resting on my shoulders I'd knew I'd be a little wobbly while the news sunk in and so I disclosed. It was managed poorly and I found my hard earned career in tatters as my hours, and my pay and position were reduced. I fought for months but I gave up as I realised this was not somewhere I therefore wanted to work. I've used this experience to better educate employers since and the staff and teams I work with and this has now had a positive impact on my life."

How do you handle HIV stigma?: "I use it as an opportunity to educate others, dispel the myths and inspire others to get tested."

Has your status ever impacted your sex life?: "Nope not at all."

How has your status impacted your life in general?: "Aside from my initial disclosure to work being mismanaged leading to me quit, I chose to publicly disclose through social media in order to educate others and although not for everyone very happy I did, it has helped me to help others and has not negatively impacted on my life."

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?: "Live, Laugh, Love, Life carries on. Own it and educate, don't live in fear of it."


Occupation: LGBT Housing Advisor

How long have you been living with HIV?: "Thirteen years."

Have you ever faced HIV stigma?: "I have to encounter uneducated and uninformed opinions/prejudices very often in my professional life. Personally,  I have been a bit cowardly; I was, for maybe five or six years after receiving my diagnosis, very reluctant to disclose my status to anyone, even on the scene, for fear of being judged or ostracised (no one in my family knows even now). For two or three years after being diagnosed, to my shame, I deliberately disengaged from discussions about HIV, but shortly after starting my current job, in 2005, I felt able to 'come out' and confident enough to challenge people who were ill-informed. It took some doing, though."

How do you handle HIV stigma?: "There are many occasions when I have to 'educate' people, even professionals who should know better. I do sometimes talk objectively about living with HIV rather than owning my own status and although in some situations, I can disclose, I am still very wary."

Has your status ever impacted your sex life?: "Yes, it would be wrong to say it hasn't. I internalised my status for a long while after my diagnosis, and I think I lost confidence. I felt a lot of shame for a long time, and still feel nervous about telling potential partners that I'm positive. I will always negotiate safer sex, but this is not quite the same as disclosing my status."

How has your status impacted your life in general?: "I like to think that it hasn't, but this would not be quite honest. I think, actually, it impacts very much on my life from day to day, even though I have been living with HIV for 13 years and my meds make me well to all intents and purposes and able to live a healthy life. I suspect that psychologically, the effect is more significant than I realise or am prepared to admit."

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?: "Don't panic, make sure you have a good clinic, talk to other positive people, look after your health, and always have safe sex."


Occupation: Artist & Drag Queen

How long have you been living with HIV?: "One and a half years."

Have you ever faced HIV stigma?: "I was laying in my bed with a guy watching a film, before I had told him my status, and when I kissed his neck he told me 'don't give me a love bite, you might give me HIV!' And then giggled. It was pretty awkward and I can't deny it killed the mood a bit! I explained my situation and he felt really bad, apologised and we had a pretty nice date after."

How do you handle HIV stigma?: "I try to educate. Education is the best way of dealing with it. Before I was educated about HIV I also believed the stigma, although I would have never been outward about it. That's something I tend to remind myself of when I'm with someone who doesn't understand yet."

Has your status ever impacted your sex life?: "Not majorly, I don't tend to have casual sex really! So anyone who has an issue with it isn't someone who's getting in my pants."

How has your status impacted your life in general?: "It turned my life upside down at first, I was really depressed for about six months, my relationship fell apart and I felt really scared. But I was surrounded by people who supported me and the first day that I got a text from my doctor telling me of my approaching undetectable status it felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders. Nowadays HIV is less of a worry to me than the red makeup stain on my living room carpet or discovering that all of my corsets need a wash and I have a gig tonight! It also means I look after myself better, and has given me a drive to accomplish more."

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?: "Speak to people. It's easy to not tell anybody how you're feeling. HIV is a part of your life now wether you like it or not, but it is up to you how big of a part of your life it is. It takes time to accept big changes like what has happened, but it will settle and in a years time you will feel completely different. If I can do this you can do this too."


THIS ARTICLE WAS TAKEN FROM FS ISSUE #156. TO READ THE ISSUE IN FULL CLICK HERE.