This may come as a surprise, but HIV-positive men and women aren't the only people who are the target of painful stereotypes, misjudgments, and assumptions. Many experience the negative impact that comes from prejudgment about HIV status, and this includes people who are not living with HIV.
Here they are: six things HIV-negative people are sick of hearing.
1. "You should just go on PrEP."
And you should mind your business when it comes to how other people choose to manage their health. PrEP, a daily treatment used to prevent HIV, is a wonderful tool, but it is not the same as taking a vitamin once a day. Give people the facts without telling them what they should or should not do. You certainly wouldn't like it if someone did the same to you.
2. "Please don't judge me, but I am HIV-positive."
You should never assume how someone will react just because they are HIV-negative. There are many men and women who have had a variety of experiences with HIV, even if they aren't the ones who are personally living with the virus. You can reveal your status without putting thoughts in their heads or words in their mouths.
3. "You will never know how it feels to live with HIV."
If you don't want people to isolate you, don't create barriers between your experience and theirs. People go through all types of struggles that you may know little about. Allow people to listen to yours without assuming that they could never relate. They just might surprise you.
4. "Why the hell would you go on PrEP? Skank."
Once again, mind your own damn business. Everyone is in charge of his or her own sexual health, and PrEP is a fantastic way to protect against HIV infection. The only thing you should assume about people on PrEP is that they are aware of their own behavior and taking the precautions that are right for them.
5. "You say you are HIV-negative, but the truth is you really don't know."
As much as you do not like it when people assume your behaviors based on your status, do not assume to know the behaviors or others based on theirs. You do not know the last time they were tested, nor are you privy to the details of their sex lives. So when someone discloses his or her negative status to you, don't dismiss it with such a loaded comment.
6. "If you don't change your ways, it is only a matter of time before you become HIV-positive, too."
This type of judgmental rhetoric has never worked in the past, and it still doesn't work today. Use your experiences to help guide your negative friends in positive and healthy ways. This type of language is not only ineffective at creating any beneficial discussion, but it also stigmatizes HIV-positive people by making HIV seem like a punishment for bad behavior.
When it comes to discussing HIV, do not assume or judge anyone, regardless of status. Everyone should be encouraged to discuss their sexual health honestly and openly in order to create a more healthy community for all. And that goes for people living (and not living) with HIV.