Just the other day I was chatting with a gorgeous friend of mine who lives in Connecticut and who I have been talking to over the past 8 years on a range of levels but mainly about living with HIV and all of its many challenges.
We started chatting about the continued stigma and discrimination that seems to still exist against gay men living with HIV within the gay community and he mused that he thought that he thought for a group that has fought for so long to gain acceptance that they may be a little more supportive and less hesitant in engaging and considering others in the community living with HIV that they come across.
Anthony and I had a long chat about the still negative attitude that still exists within the gay male community about engaging with other gay men with HIV who are looking for a relationship, sexual contact or even just friendship. It just highlighted for me that no matter where you are when living with HIV that lack of acceptance and naiveté around the lived experience with HIV is still prevalent in 2015 which is such a shame.
I would like to think that with all the work that we have been doing around promoting HIV and AIDS awareness and understanding around what living with HIV is all about that within the gay community there would be a little less stigma against gay men with HIV. I think that is why I have become quite passionate about addressing this issue through both my work and privately by embracing a great campaign that has come out of Victoria Positive Living – ENUF is a fantastic concept that has been going over the past 12 months and aims to do a number of things around stigma and discrimination.
As Ban Ki Moon, the United Nations Secretary-General says:
“HIV stigma remains the single most important barrier to public action… it helps make AIDS the silent killer, because people fear the social disgrace of talking about it or taking easily available precautions. Stigma is the chief reason why the AIDS epidemic continues to devastate societies around the world.”
He highlights some of the issues that people with HIV deal with on a daily basis in their personal relationships.
So what is ENUF? As the ENUF website (www.enuf.org.au) states:
The ENUF campaign aims to seek the experiences of both stigma and resilience in all of its many and various forms from people living with HIV.
The ENUF campaign relies upon your voice and your stories. It is a campaign that relies upon a whole crowd of people thinking about stigma and sharing their experiences.
ENUF is the theme to tie it all together and make it recognisable.
ENUF is the token, the catch phrase and the call to action.
It communicates one clear meaning “ENUF” while at the same time it opens up consideration for multiple meanings. It’s direct, it does not waste any time, it’s resilient and defiant. Its a word, anagram or possibly an acronym, it’s ENUF. ENUF resists ignorance and apathy – it demands attention and discussion it is a campaign message that is both simple and obvious, yet it draws you in to discover more.
ENUF means ENUF – it’s a word, a sentence in a single word, and it is attached to many phrases which signal that an end has been reached—ENUF depends on your involvement, your assent and your commitment to action.
The ENUF campaign relies upon the submissions of your stories and experiences of HIV stigma and resilience. We invite everyone to share their voice and we encourage you to consider providing us permission to use your stories in the production of the campaign messages from t-shirts to billboards, posters to magazine articles.
ENUF is your social action to resist HIV stigma and promote resilience.
I love the idea behind the notion of a call to action for people with HIV to share their experiences and to educate others but at the same time gives power back to the person sharing their story.
Through my work at the AIDS Council we will be rolling out our version of ENUF in the coming months in a range of different ways and giving a voice to those of us here in WA living with HIV.
I will be interested to see if this will be possible in a small HIV community like Perth, because I think it is sometimes even harder in our environment to be open about our HIV status. I have been open about my status for many years now but I know that has been because I have the most amazing support around me to allow me to be open about who I am and to share my experiences of living with HIV for over 27 years.
That love and support has been integral in my ability to stay strong and to stand up as a person living with HIV but I understand the difficulty that exists for others in being open about their status. Rejection, lack of empathy and understanding are strong motivators to stop a person from disclosing their status and we all need to work together to say ENUF!
To further quote the ENUF website:
Stigma is not just fear or ignorance or people being mean. It is broader than prejudice or discrimination. It is the dark side of the social life of humans – the negative outcomes that emerge from our habit of dividing people into groups and thinking in stereotypes about them.
It is used to assert power over others and to justify and normalise the inequities that structure our society (Parker & Aggleton, 2003). Because stigma is such a broad, insidious and destructive social process, it affects people in every aspect of their lives – at home, at work, among friends, when looking for partners, in bed, at the clinic and in public.
At the same time stigmas are extremely specific and concrete. There is not one phenomenon called ‘stigma’ that applies to multiple topics; there are multiple overlapping and interacting stigmas that each have a unique target – a frequent combination of HIV stigma can overlap with gay stigma (homophobia), drug use stigma, sex work stigma and mental health stigma to name only a few.
Stigma is meant to hurt, meant to divide and meant to force others out.
So the question that arises from all this is – will you join the movement and take the ENUF pledge to make a difference?
The ENUF Pledge
- I pledge to challenge HIV stigma whenever and wherever I see it.
- I will not sit by and allow anyone living with HIV to fear disclosure.
- I will take action when I see others gossiping about, rejecting and/or promoting negative stereotypes about people living with HIV.
- I commit to being part of the solution, not part of the problem.
It is time for all of us to join together and say ENUF is enough!