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Need to stop the stigma

Tevita Vuibau
Saturday, March 01, 2014

WHEN Benjamin Christopher was first told he was HIV positive early last year, he took the news better than most would.

Not surprising considering the 26-year-old had a background in volunteering and working with sexual health programs.

And though he would briefly succumb to the self stigma that afflicts many who are HIV positive, he managed to get back on his feet and now encourages all to get tested and seek help.

His message is particularly poignant as Fiji joins the rest of the world to celebrate the first Zero Discrimination day today.

Mr Christopher says there is a need to stop the stigma against homosexuals and those living with HIV in Fiji.

"The reason that I want to come out as a HIV positive man who has sex with men (MSM) is because I know there are others out there who are afraid to come out for what they are," the FJN+ volunteer said.

"They are not alone on this road and if they need help, there are organisations like FJN+ here and I am also here to support people living with HIV."

Having personally dealt with rumours of him purposefully spreading the disease and other tall tales, Mr Christopher knows all too well the stigma attached to those in similar positions.

"Especially when you're an MSM and living with HIV, it's just double stigma and discrimination and there's still work that needs to be done to stop this.

"One thing that I would like to say is that we are all humans — no matter our sexual orientation and HIV status.

"We are still human and we should all be treated the same way."

He said the acceptance from his family played a huge role in helping him to deal with being HIV positive.

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