HIV and Identity

  • Medjai

    Posts: 2671

    Dec 01, 2012 2:19 AM GMT
    Question to those with HIV:

    Why is it that you say you are HIV positive, as opposed to simply saying you have HIV?

    It seems like it isn't something you'd want to define yourself by, to me at least. Just curious about the why behind the linguistics.
  • Koaa2

    Posts: 1556

    Dec 03, 2012 12:34 PM GMT
    Not quite sure, but I say I am HIV Neg, when people ask, not that I don't have HIV.
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    Dec 03, 2012 12:46 PM GMT
    I thought it got started by the way HIV is tested for. They don't test for the virus, rather they test for the presence or absence of HIV antibodies. If the test for the antibodies comes out "positive" it means that the antibodies are present, and the patient has HIV.
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    Dec 03, 2012 1:11 PM GMT
    Hawk_Guy13 saidI thought it got started by the way HIV is tested for. They don't test for the virus, rather they test for the presence or absence of HIV antibodies. If the test for the antibodies comes out "positive" it means that the antibodies are present, and the patient has HIV.

    DING DING DING, we have a winner here.

    It comes from the medical world, it's not something the poz community thought up to feel good in terms of identity politics ;-)

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    Dec 03, 2012 9:35 PM GMT
    I thought it had more to do with attitude. "I'm HIV and I'm super positive about the future..."
    No?
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    Dec 03, 2012 9:42 PM GMT
    And it's also to make a distinction between having the virus and having reached immune system shutdown..
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    Dec 03, 2012 9:45 PM GMT
    It is a medically cautious designation. If a test only detects antigens to a pathogen, it means that the patient has been exposed to the pathogen at some time, but it does not necessarily mean that the pathogen is still present.
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    Dec 03, 2012 10:16 PM GMT
    It's a unique phenomenon of language. We would be more inclined to identify as "being HIV+" rather than "having HIV". In the same way perhaps as identifying "gay" rather than "homosexual", or "being autistic" versus "having autism", etc. The latter cases of these sound excessively clinical. Perhaps it is unusual also in rhetoric to casually say you "have a virus". One would not say he "has a cold virus", rather he simply "has a cold". It is a designation of having an illness, and because HIV is not a disease per se (that would be AIDS), it seems less logical in practical usage. Euphemistic intent may also play a role in designation. I think there is something to using the word "positive" that does soften the expression.
  • Medjai

    Posts: 2671

    Dec 04, 2012 7:18 PM GMT
    MuchMoreThanMuscle said
    Medjai saidQuestion to those with HIV:



    Interesting how this question was directed toward a small demographic on RJ yet the majority of people chiming in do not have HIV. icon_idea.gificon_idea.gif


    I wasn't opposed to other answers, I just thought it would be more relevant from those with HIV. The subject came up in my anthropology lecture, and I thought I'd continue the discussion here, for my own curiosity.

    Thank you for your reply, by the way.
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    Dec 04, 2012 7:33 PM GMT
    MuchMoreThanMuscle said
    I have HIV but currently and thankfully do not have AIDS.


    MuchMoreThanMuscle weighed in on something I think is very important. Though not relative to the thread about the symantics of HIV, I think it is really important to note that HIV is not a disease but a condition/virus. AIDS is a disease. I know people who have HIV that are healthier than they have ever been in their lives. As well, in better shape and more health-conscious than people without the virus. Also, recent studies show that if your HIV is controlled as "undetectable" for a period of time, then the chances of that person to pass it on is close to nil. That I think, is rather amazing in this day and age. Especially for those who were an adult in the eighties and remember the times of thousands dying.
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    Dec 04, 2012 7:37 PM GMT
    Isn't this question just like the 'people first' movement of the 70s? Not defining a person by their disease, disorder, or syndrome but by an actually person first.

    Instead of saying 'disabled person' it's supposed to be 'person with a disability"



    OR (I use this one all the time just to piss everyone off.)

    'Older people' is now 'persons with age'



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    Dec 04, 2012 7:42 PM GMT
    deltalimen said

    'Older people' is now 'persons with age'


    or "hot men with age" in the case of RJ!
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    Dec 05, 2012 1:56 AM GMT
    deltalimen saidIsn't this question just like the 'people first' movement of the 70s? Not defining a person by their disease, disorder, or syndrome but by an actually person first.

    Instead of saying 'disabled person' it's supposed to be 'person with a disability"

    OR (I use this one all the time just to piss everyone off.)

    'Older people' is now 'persons with age'



    Cute but people get pissed because when you call someone older it makes aging sound so final--never mind that it is so often used as a put down by brats--while we who are your elders (the proper term) sort of plan to continue getting even older. Now how are we supposed to get older if you've already pegged us as older? You see the problem here. The final destination is called, of course, a dead person, not a person with death. I'll have no problem with you calling me a dead person when it's my time. Until then, those of us aging--you know, everyone who isn't dead--either don't or shouldn't consider getting older a disease, disorder or syndrome which would require people first but simply it is a participation in life.

    Whatever you call us, just don't call us late for the early bird special. We need to get out into rush our traffic in time to piss off you youngins.
  • bradsmith

    Posts: 175

    Dec 05, 2012 2:25 AM GMT
    It's what they told me in 1987, I never considered objecting.
  • FLMatman

    Posts: 15

    Dec 07, 2012 1:40 PM GMT
    Always I do tell the truth .. It is not a death sentence ... Over the last 11 years, I have found HIV negative men are supportive and understanding in social, dating, and sexual situations ... Before I will tell only in cases where we were heading home for something more ... You will not be surprise how many guys will drop you like a stack of hotcakes... Now, I have someone who matches with me in every trait so we re taking it slowly and working on our relationship.
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    Dec 07, 2012 2:02 PM GMT
    Here's another one for you: How about "I am HIV-infected." I, personally, don't like the sound of that one.

    Also, there is a push to get away from "compliance" since it assumes the prescribing physician is in an authority role and the patient is passive. With an emphasis on patient participation in his/her care, the preferred term is "adherence."
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    Dec 07, 2012 2:07 PM GMT
    smartmoney saidI thought it had more to do with attitude. "I'm HIV and I'm super positive about the future..."
    No?

    In 1994 I joined a Seattle BBS where many members put a plus + at the end of their screen names if they had HIV (the site software allowed using a wide range of characters).

    One of the BBS members who encouraged the practice was poz himself, and a leader in the HIV/AIDS community. He told me they wanted to destigmatize HIV, so guys wouldn't feel like social pariahs with a poor outlook, as you suggest. And also so more guys would tell potential lovers if they were poz, and not conceal it which leads to more new infections.
  • calibro

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    Dec 07, 2012 2:39 PM GMT
  • jim_sf

    Posts: 2094

    Jan 03, 2013 3:19 AM GMT
    I tend to waver between "I am HIV-positive" and "I have HIV". Whatever fits the situation.

    As far as "to be"-"to have" is concerned, though, "HIV-positive" is an adjective in the same vein as other medical terms like "diabetic" or "hemophiliac". It doesn't bother me grammatically to hear a sentence like "I am diabetic", and I'd never subconsciously equate that with "I am diabetes".

    The positive/negative construction also has the added benefit of accommodating uncertainty. Saying "I am HIV-negative" implies "My last test for HIV was negative, but there's a possibility that I've contracted HIV since then"; saying "I do not have HIV" implies "I have preternatural mental control over my own bodily fluids, and I can state for a fact that I have psychically scoured my entire person for traces of HIV and found exactly zero virions".
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    Jan 04, 2013 3:05 AM GMT
    I actually like the phrase HIV positive. When asked, I say - proudly - yes, I am HIV Positive. It is not unlike a black man using the word Nigger, or a lesbian identifying as a Dyke, or gay men calling themselves Faggots. When you own the vocabulary, and use it powerfully, you change its negative implication.

    Yeah, I'm Poz....you got a problem with that?
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    Jan 04, 2013 3:25 AM GMT
    Medjai saidQuestion to those with HIV:

    Why is it that you say you are HIV positive, as opposed to simply saying you have HIV?

    It seems like it isn't something you'd want to define yourself by, to me at least. Just curious about the why behind the linguistics.


    Because I test positive for HIV antibodies, but may not have live virus in my body. I might not "have HIV" anymore. Maybe I do. In any case, I still use rubbers.

    I've been HIV positive for over 28 years.