Referring to a negative HIV status as "clean" is offensive

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Referring to a negative HIV status as "clean" is offensive

Postby CareXOAdmin » Fri Jan 11, 2013 2:40 pm

Referring to a negative HIV status as "clean" is offensive and harmful. It implies that someone who is positive is dirty or unclean. It's also a very easy way to cause confusion around disclosing, because regardless of how you mean it, HIV+ people are still clean. Wash what you say! End the status war!
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Re: Referring to a negative HIV status as "clean" is offensi

Postby pozabilities » Sat Jan 12, 2013 11:15 pm

The Power of Language

I could not agree more. Some HIV negative guys have lots of unprotected sex. They don't seem to realize that they are at high risk for getting HIV. Still, they perpetuate the stigma by referring to HIV negative guys as "clean." I know one example where a poz guy didn't understand this new usage of the word "clean." So, when the other guy asked, "Are you clean?", the poz guy replied "sure" assuming that having taken a shower classified him as clean. I have heard many poz guys express great offense to the term "clean" since by inference being HIV positive makes you somehow "dirty." The term "clean" is just another form of stigmatizing name-calling.

The latest research indicates that one-third of all the HIV positive people in the United States do not know their status. Some of these people are claiming to be HIV negative simply because they have avoided testing. I think that it is safe to say that these people are simply in denial. Sadly, such people discover their positive HIV status only when they become gravely ill and need to be admitted to the hospital. In some cases, such people do not survive the hospital stay because their immune system is so severely damaged.

I believe that words can be very powerful so we must choose them wisely. For example, early Gay activists rejected the derogatory words such as "fag", and "queer." Instead, they encourage the community to adopt the word "Gay." This switch in words is parallel to what happened in the Black Community. When Blacks rejected the derogatory words "nigger" and "colored", they change the nature of their struggle for equal rights.

One thing that bothers me is when I hear a person say, "I'm HIV." The implication of this remark is that their whole identity has shifted to the disease (I = HIV). No one "is HIV" but a person may "have HIV" or "be HIV positive." I worry that sometimes poz people allow themselves to be stigmatized and consequently their self-esteem plummets. HIV is only one element in a person's life. It is not everything. HIV is simply a virus that causes a medical condition. Is this greatly different than someone who has severe diabetes? Does a diabetic hide his medical status in shame? When Gay people started to come out of the closet more and more, the social views started to change. When people started to know Gay people, the stereotypes started to crumble. I wonder if we HIV positive people should also come out of the closet, would the HIV-related myths and stigma crumble as the Gay Community and the society-at-large realized that most HIV person looked normal and were living long healthy lives? The gravity of HIV has changed dramatically since the 1980's. For the most part, HIV is now just a chronic disease.

I hope that the readers of this posting notice that I always capitalize the word "Gay." In English, we capitalize words that refer to a specific group (Jew, Christian, Black, Californian, Texan, Democrat, Canadian,Asian, etc.). Through capitalization we elevate the status of the word to a recognized and respected class of people. Let's demand that Gay organizations and the media begin capitalizing the words "Gay" and "Lesbian."
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