"I wish I knew that I was not going to die from HIV, and probably nothing even related to HIV," Robbins said of when he learned of his diagnosis. "And I wish I would have already known that HIV was a chronic condition that I could still live healthily with."
People Diagnosed With HIV Need Support
As a public activist, Robbins fields questions and communicates with a wide range of people living with HIV. What he's found is that most of them just need someone to listen.
"I receive a large amount of questions from people who might or think they have been exposed and just want to talk to someone who understands. Or people that are just diagnosed and they don’t really even know what questions to ask, they just need someone to listen," Robbins said. "Many of these conversations happen privately on social media or through email or other messaging apps. It’s a big task to be open to people telling you their life history over an email on a Saturday night - when all we activists want to do is go to dinner and dance. But we all understand how important it is to respond to these people when we are approached. It never fails that I get message that stops me in my tracks when I am about to (and usually am already late) for a hookup!"
"HIV Awareness" May Not Mean What You Think It Means
If you don't have HIV and consider yourself careful when it comes to sexual safety, you might not think you need to be more HIV aware than that. But keep in mind that about 40,000 people are diagnosed with HIV in the United States each year, which means there are likely HIV-positive people in your community.
"HIV awareness doesn’t require a positive result to an HIV screening. It doesn’t require wearing a red ribbon once or twice a year. And it doesn’t demand a check or walking in an AIDS Walk anywhere," Robbins said. "Being aware about HIV simply means becoming educated about the virus, the risks, the modes of transmission and finding the lives of those living with HIV as still deserving of love, sex, justice, and being treated fairly and as a human."
In other words, being HIV aware means checking your prejudice, calling out stigmatization and questioning your assumptions.
"HIV awareness means explicitly not allowing fear and ignorance to drive the manner and ways an individual treats or reacts to someone living with HIV. We must all recognize the unique long-term survivors that need support and sometimes feel isolated. And we need to understand the racial disparities and the huge barriers to health that members in our community face just because of their financial status, ethnic background and heir ZIP code.
Robbins concludes that while HIV doesn't infect everyone, it does affect everyone in some way. So, now you now. What are you going to do about?