Despite that fact that 36.7 million people around the world are HIV positive, a lot of damaging stigma still surrounds the disease. And HIV Foundation Queensland is showing us what this stigma can look like with its Real Conversations of Grindr campaign, which includes a video of people reading real messages HIV+ people have gotten on Grindr, New Now Next reports.
When the users' HIV statuses were revealed, many people got shockingly nasty. Their messages included "Go and spread your disease with some other poor fucker," "What the fuck’s wrong with you? Why are you on here with your disease?", and "You should be ashamed, you're a walking disease." Some of the people in the video couldn't even read them because they were so full of of hate.
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is the virus that can cause AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) by destroying your immune cells. People who test positive for HIV can live normal lives and almost completely eliminate their chances of transmitting the virus by taking medication. Much of the stigma surrounding HIV stems from a lack of awareness of these facts.
Last year, a Terrence Higgins Trust and YouGov survey found that one in five people in the U.K. believe you can get HIV from kissing (which you can't). And only two in five realized that people receiving HIV treatment can have sex without passing it on.
Now that we're all bummed out by this video, here's a more encouraging story on this front: Earlier this year, HIV+ actor George Hankers blindfolded himself and held up a sign that read "I'm HIV+" and instructed people to "write your messages of positivity" in London's Trafalgar Square. By the end, the comments written on the sign included "It gets better, trust me," "You are me and I am you," and "We are all with you buddy, keep smiling."
There's still a long way to go before everyone adopts these attitudes, but spreading awareness with projects like these can go a long way toward fighting stigma.