Being POZ on the Internet - Part Three

By ChatJunkie

There is a lot of stigma attached to poz people in chatrooms.

When you join these chat sites, there are many people who believe that everyone should post their HIV status. Some feel we have no right being in there looking for relationships, encounters or friendship. In every chatroom there is a group of people who think that what they believe is what everyone should believe because we are all in there for the same reason. I don’t mean to offend anyone by that statement, it’s just a fact. They don’t understand or support the fact that it is none of their business and the only time it becomes their business is if they plan on having sex with someone who is poz. On the other side of the issue, there are people who are poz who choose not to post their status, never tell partners their status and others who outright lie about their status. There are others who have never been tested, ……ever, because they are afraid to know the truth, afraid of having to tell family and afraid of the stigma.

If at sometime you do disclose to someone you have chatted with, there is no way to be sure that it will stay between you and that person, alot of chat goes on in private. Gossip can run rampant in that way. There are times when someone has broken up with a partner and they go in making claims that their ex is HIV positive and doesn’t tell anyone. Incidents like this can start the stigma machine and a heated debate will begin. The internet chatroom is a lot like the old school yard when you were growing up and its hard to believe they are all adults in there carrying on like that.

When my status was broadcasted in the chatroom, I was so devastated, embarrassed and felt like people were now seeing someone totally different. I heard comments like “I deserved it”, “I hope it takes him, the quicker the better”. How could I have been coming in there all that time and not have it in my profile. There was even a comment that I was suffering from dementia, I was delusional and one very sick person to not have said anything. I learned through my real friends and some complete strangers that it didn’t matter to them, some had spoke up in my defense.

Not long ago I created another profile on the site and posted my HIV status. Even my friends don’t know its me. The experience is so different. I can be present in the room for several hours and not one person will talk to me. From time to time someone will message me in private and want to meet. I make sure they have read my profile and if they still want to meet, I tell them I would rather chat a bit longer. Some don’t really know what it all means, they aren’t aware of the risks. I will then tell them to go to the Aids Committee in their area. Anyone that I have chatted with under this profile, none have led to a meeting.

What I am learning from all of this experience is that by posting my status, it might minimize my exposure to stigmatism but it will not help when it comes to some people and their beliefs. We need to change the beliefs of the others, not by force but by open discussion and education. Some people need to be brought into the 21st Century. There are tougher laws for disclosing and people on both sides of this issue need to know their responsibility. Posting your status in a profile online is not enough anymore.

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