Personal experiences with HIV stigma
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A 27 year old Filipino male patient came into the emergency room, complaining about shortness of breath. After running diagnostic tests, we found that he had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and his HIV antibody test-his first ever-was positive.
In the past, he had seen doctors who were homophobic about his "unhealthy gay lifestyle." He was scared and avoided getting tested because he didn't want to find out he was HIV-positive.
He was admitted for treatment. I assured him he was in a gay-friendly environment, but his fear and shame of being "found out"-of people discovering he was gay or HIV positive-was so severe that he would not allow staff to tell his family about his sexuality of HIV status. We had to tell his family he had a normal pneumonia.
I worry about him. Not being able to disclose important matters like this to his family will likely worsen his health. He needs a support system in place to help him stay on his HIV medication schedule. He needs someone to monitor his status in case his condition worsens. And, we know that psychological stress hastens HIV progression.