I am very glad that we have another courageous and brave person willing to stand up and come out publicly in Singapore as a HIV+ person. Coming out positively, to me, really takes a lot of courage, especially for a gay person. This is really like coming out of the closet a second time, only the fears, stigma, prejudice, negative responses and consequences are probably more real than coming out as a gay person. Honestly speaking a lot of people now are more accepting of someone being gay. Efforts over the years have bore some fruits and the stigma and prejudice of being gay in some ways and in some places actually reversed and its cool to be gay, to have a gay friend and to be known to be gay-friendly. International firms too are getting into the acts of being a gay-friendly place to work. However, stigma and prejudice still looms over a person who is HIV+ and for a lot of people the future may still be unpredictable.
One can imagine that to come out of the closet as a gay person there are fears of family rejection, losing jobs or being held back, losing friends and being ostracized by one’s own religion. For many gay person in Singapore, even though these fears exists and for some they are reality, the relative large support groups and friends that are around to help ease those coming out pains.
Now imagine, having faced those fears a gay person and if one is HIV+, to come out of the closet as a HIV+ person, one have to deal with the same fears all over again but this time perhaps more really and even more drastic. Family, friends and strangers may totally avoid you due to ignorance and fear of transmission by mere touch or sharing of food, gay persons will avoid having sex with you, even if it safe (yes, you can still safely have sex with someone HIV+), you may loose your job or may not get jobs that you want because you are HIV+ and people will look at you with those damning eyes as if you deserve it. Support groups are large held in secrecy and there are no guarantees that there will be friends to support you throughout.
Even if a gay man comes out of the closet, remnants of his own internal homophobia still exists somewhat, albeit at different levels. Compound this on top of having to come out HIV+, it must be extremely stressful and fearful and yet really courageous for one to do so coming out publicly.
Even those who do not come out publicly, but tries to share it with a few friends and family, it must have been a fearful experience for them. What if none of their friends could take it, what if their partner is totally freaked out and if their family avoided them? “What if, what if?” is probably what goes through their minds as they decide to tell the next person about their status.
For those who are gay but still in the closet, it must be unimaginably difficult and stressful to be HIV+ because they simply don’t have experience of coming out and the skills to handle those fears and even rejections that some gay people already faced when coming out (of the 1st closet). Who can they turn to if they even fear joining a support group? How long can they hid their “gayness” and HIV+ status from family? From work? From friends? How would people react when they know the person is both gay and HIV+? These scenarios and fears must be playing in their head every moment.
That is why to me, for a HIV+ person to even have the courage to speak to a partner, a friend, a worker or family about it, they must care very much about the person and also cared very much that the person still wants to be around him/her after that. If any of you are ever in those situation, I hope you understand this point when someone tells you about his/her status.
Lastly kudos to Avin for his courage and work!