Positive status: Jason’s coming out storyadmin
Positive status: Jason’s coming out story
HIV Australia | Vol. 11 No. 1 | March 2013
FINN O’KEEFE hears a good news story about coming out as HIV-positive on Facebook.
Jason, who’s 33 years old, came out as gay when he was 14. He’s been living with HIV for almost two years and recently decided to ‘come out’ about his HIV status to his 1,000-plus friends on Facebook. He explains that he wanted to harness the power of social media to make a difference and to help educate other young people about HIV and the importance of getting tested regularly.
‘I wanted to “come out” to everyone for quite some time now,’ Jason explains. ‘I saw that most people I knew with an HIV diagnosis felt ashamed, felt “dirty” and felt like they were worth less … Almost everyone I spoke to with the diagnosis had not dealt with it in any significant way; even my partner committed suicide after being diagnosed.
‘Once I had dealt with it and was happy again with my life, I wanted to show everyone around me that they can be proud of who they are, they can love who they are and that they deserve to be loved, no matter what life has thrown at you.’
Jason says that although coming out so publically about his HIV status was a difficult decision – and one he deliberated about for some time – it was worth it.
‘It was incredibly hard,’ he says, ‘I hesitated for months, until one day I just did it.’ Jason says that he has received an unexpected amount of support following his announcement. ‘Not only were people so supportive of me, but I was contacted by many, many people who had HIV or other illnesses.
Being told that what I did helped them and made a difference to their life has been amazing. It gave my diagnosis worth; it made it special to me. I became even happier.
‘I found many people in a similar situation to mine. By opening up to them, they in turn opened up to me, so I found the support I needed all around me. I can only suggest to try looking for support from those around you – you will probably be surprised by how much is there.’
Jason explains that although in the beginning he knew very little about HIV, he has been able to share what he has learnt with others: ‘It wasn’t until I decided to understand HIV, and spent hours and hours poring over research did I understand it as I do now. As for my peers, well, I have helped everyone around me see HIV differently, from increasing understanding, to reducing the stigma associated with it simply by discussing things with them, and showing them I am still the same person.’
Although Jason sees a positive diagnosis as a life changing experience, he says it is important to focus on the positives: ‘It may seem impossible to deal with, but your life will go on – although, yes, it needs to change. Taking care of your health and being sexually responsible are just some of the changes, though none of these are bad. In fact, they have been great changes for me’.
Everything in life is what you make of it,’ Jason concludes. ‘Life gave me some lemons, like it does to most people. You can either suck on them and get a sour face, or maybe, add some sugar and make yourself some lemonade … I decided to invite everyone around, slice my lemons up and open a bottle of tequila, and celebrate this party we all call life.’
HIV Australia thanks Jason for sharing his story with us. An article about Jason’s story was also featured in QNews.
Jason’s message on Facebook
I came out as being gay when I was like 14. I thought that it was going to be hard then, but it wasn’t – I received nothing but support and love from everyone around me, and have still my entire life, but it’s time to come out again.
This time it seems harder but I hope I find it just as easy and natural as last time. Not that long ago, my partner and I had trusted each other enough to indulge in unprotected sex, and had agreed to only do this with each other. It was only a few months, however, until I found out that he wasn’t keeping his side of the deal.
Upset, I suggested we both get tested again; the results came back positive for HIV. I couldn’t speak to my partner about his betrayal as I was still dealing with the hurt, so when he approached me to talk, I said I couldn’t speak to him. It was only a few days later that he killed himself.
I have HIV and I am on medication that has completely controlled the virus and it cannot be detected in my body. I am healthier than I have ever been, and am the happiest I have been in my life.
You might be wondering why come out and tell everyone this? Well I believe everything happens for a reason and I believe that I contracted this virus to help others with it, or with any illness they might feel stigmatised or ashamed of, even if its just to show them it’s ok, you’re ok, everything will always be ok.
It’s time I publicly own my status, I have HIV. I am happy. I am healthy. I am fabulous and current medication means that I can live a life almost as long as everyone else. Probably even longer than I was going to as I am now so particular with my health. Medication is improving all the time, and I believe medication will one day cure me of it completely.
So if you have HIV or any illness, you might feel ashamed of, or scared of, don’t be – you’re still the same person and you can be happy, healthy and fabulous. Be responsible. Be happy. Get tested regularly. Love Jason.
Jason received hundreds of messages of support from people after he posted his message. He responded to this outpouring of support with a public reply:
Wow, I could never have imagined the response I have gotten today, not in all my wildest dreams. I have had so much support from everyone and the amount of private messages I have had is overwhelming. There is so much love around, it really is OK being whoever you are, and no matter what happens to you, don’t be ashamed because people really do care and love.
I am blessed, and so is everybody else. Be thankful for what you have, and be proud of it, no matter what. The fact we are still alive right now, means we have the greatest gift of all. Be strong, be happy, and be free. Thank you everyone for all that you have shown me today, I feel like a king, and I hope that what I have done today shows many people that whatever situation they are in, it doesn’t matter, because someone will always love you, things will always get better, and life will move on … Love J.
Finn O’Keefe is Communications Officer at AFAO and an editor of HIV Australia.