Guest Blog By Josh Robbins
Josh Robbins is an HIV-positive social media activist and HIV blogger. This is a guest post celebrating World AIDS Day.
Today is World AIDS Day 2014.
It is a day to remember those that we have lost in the past 30 years to HIV/AIDS. It is a day to be thankful for those individuals that have dedicated themselves to the work of raising awareness, helping prevent new infections, serving the needs of those living with HIV, and a moment to re-engage in the important work of decreasing the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and encouraging those that are affected. It is a pretty important day, in my opinion.
I also have a sense of humor.
Almost 3 years ago this month, I made a decision that had a consequence of being diagnosed with HIV. After that terrible day, I have experienced the worst parts of living with the condition, the battle with the insurance companies, trying to decide if and when I would start the right HIV medications, and how I could get out of having to attend another group therapy session or needle prick.
But now, after, nearly 3 years of hearing verbal support and encouragement from friends, family members and complete strangers, I find myself still relying on the humor that I have always used as a coping mechanism, but even more.
Laughter Helps Me Cope
What has me so tied-up in knots and chuckling to myself? These phrases: “Just Stay Positive” “You’ve turned a bad situation in something positive” and “Keep positive about it”.
Is it just me or do you agree that the entire line of telling an HIV-positive person to stay, well, ‘positive’ is as about ironically funny as we can get? I mean, duh.
I do not take offense to someone sharing their well-intended words of hope and encouragement and I sincerely hope that my essay today is not counter-productive in being able to continue hear those types of supporting statements. But, come on, right?
It is funny!
Humor, jokes (even some of the bad ones), and not letting one’s condition take away their swagger is how some individuals cope about their condition. I am not alone.
I am not the only condition laughing.
My mom, Lisa, is an active blogger about Multiple Sclerosis and she totally gets it too. Instead of the ‘staying positive’ line that I hear often, she thinks it is funny when someone introduces her to somebody new: “This is Lisa. She has MS.” (Wait, did you just introduce me and tell them my medical condition like a title under my name?) It is a bit funny.
In our conversing about some of the more humorous parts of journey overcoming the difficulties of our conditions, we realized how important it actually is to be able to laugh. And I mean laugh at ourselves, laugh at circumstances, and yes, even laugh at some of the conversations and funnier things about it all.
For me, I’ve personally found great pride in informing those individuals that seem to get under my skin the easy way that they are stressing me out: “Look y’all. You’re raising my viral load.” The look on their faces after I say that would make you think I just informed them that I was literally about to head to the grave.
So, the next time you hear someone tell you to “stay positive” in the situation, please think of me— the HIV-positive fella from Tennessee that giggles inside because it’s not like I have a choice now do I? By you laughing with me— even though you may not have HIV— we share a connection as Health Activists and that is ultimately the goal of supporting each other the most.
Happy World AIDS Day!
Now please stop driving in the HIV Lanes in the big cities. (You know— the HOV lanes. Those of us living with HIV have decided that the HOV lanes were made for us.)