NEWS that a major Hollywood star is about to announce he is HIV-positive has broken the internet today and every man, woman, child and their pets has had something to say about it.
While Living Positive Victoria chief executive Brent Allan believes it is good for people in the public eye to disclose their status because it “makes it easier” for everyone living with HIV, Star Observer wants to address the impact online comments, media reporting and real life interactions may have on people living with HIV.
As reported earlier today, we won’t “out” the celebrity until he is ready to come forward himself, but that hasn’t stopped people online for judging him and having an opinion on the story.
Leading Australian HIV activist and The Institute of Many (TIM) co-founder Nic Holas recommends people avoid reading the comments sections regarding this news but understands that’s not always possible.
“There’s a lot of harm that comes from incidental reading,” he told the Star Observer.
“There’s going to be a lot of claims he deserved it… which implies we all deserved it and that’s not right and doesn’t help.”
People could institute a media and internet ban to protect themselves until news of the actor’s HIV disclosure cools down (who knows when that will be and such a ban would be near impossible for many of us), but that doesn’t shield the potential to hear negative comments with mates at a pub or the table at a dinner party.
“First and foremost look after yourself,” radio broadcaster and community HIV advocate Dean Beck said.
“It’s going to be a time when for some of us we will step up and step in to that education space where we will have to yet again become the educators and spend time on re-education and correcting language.
“If you feel strongly enough to be that educator, do so. But if you need to walk away, do so.
“Be good to yourself, take it easy.”
Beck, along with Brent Allan, encourage people living with HIV or affected by it to reach out to the numerous services available if they need help.
“You have to recognise that all people living with HIV are not all [actor’s name],” Allan said.
“Sometimes it feels like it is the same if you’re afraid to tell your partner or your family. Responses to disclosure are mixed, many people living with HIV (PLHIV) fear the worst and it rarely happens.
“When it does, what’s important is that PLHIV recognise that coming out takes strength and those who judge are usually weak and afraid.
“There are great counselling services out there. Call one of the many HIV organisations… we know how to do it.”
- The Institute of Many: a peer-run community for people living with HIV.
- Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO): all the information you need about HIV.
- QLife: Call on 1800 184 527 or visit qlife.org.au if you need counselling.