Op-ed: This Valentine’s Day, Everyone Deserves an Equal Chance

Olympic medalist Ji Wallace talks about the Olympics, his boyfriend, and why he's now joining The Stigma Project and HRC to empower others with HIV.



Wallace (left) and Baldwin share a love of athletics and an understanding of HIV, two things that help them stay together

Shaun and I were guests at the London Pride House during the Summer Olympics in 2012. As I was watching an interview with Greg Louganis, I thought of the stigma that’s still out there. I thought about how lucky I was to have Shaun — and how lucky he was to have me. And I knew I needed to speak out.

So I wrote a letter and heard from people around the world. The support I received — and still receive today — was incredible. But I also hear heartbreaking stories of those who are HIV-positive and feel isolated from the world because of their diagnosis and the stigma that so often accompanies it. 

Today, I’m proud to be working with The Stigma Project and Human Rights Campaign to help raise awareness around the stigma that impacts people living with HIV. I truly believe it’s the number one barrier to ending the epidemic and I am proud to use my voice to empower those living with or affected by HIV.  With seemingly insurmountable odds,  if we have support, if we have love, we can thrive in the face of stigma and show the world our true potential, no matter our HIV status.

I encourage you to share our special Valentine underscoring that, positive or negative, everyone deserves an equal chance at love.

HIV isn’t a life sentence of loneliness and isolation. It isn’t a character judgment. It isn’t something that will prevent you from achieving everything you ever wanted. And Shaun and I are living, loving proof.

Ji Wallace is an openly gay, HIV-positive Australian gymnast and Olympic trampoline champion. He won the silver medal in trampoline at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.

Read our cover interview with him from 2013 here.

Watch this video below of Wallace's coming out on ABC, with clips from him at the 2000 Olympics, where he won the silver medal.

Tags: Commentary