After losing a close friend to complications from AIDS, Jai decided that instead of remaining silent, it was time to speak out about HIV. By talking openly and honestly about HIV with his partners, friends and broader community, Jai is working to end the silence and stigma around HIV.
One of my friends, he died from HIV and AIDS complications and one day he went off to back where he was from and that was the last we saw of him.
Nobody wanted to say why he died and that’s when I learned what stigma was. It was it felt like they they wanted to separate themselves. The first thing I had to acknowledge that I was part of the problem. I was the guy who didn’t want to date anybody who was positive. I didn’t want to deal with people who are positive. I thought they were sick and I thought they were all the hurtful words that we use to describe a community of people. And for a long time I was just lucky that it hadn’t happened to me cuz I have been less than safe.
The second I realize that every time I said no HIV positive, or drug and disease-free or you know all the language that we use, is a second that I could make a change. When I can see myself in other people, I can see that our experience isn’t all so different. The community we belong to is the same community them I can, then I can really shed the stigma.