“You are HIV-Positive — Resign!”

Source: Tülay Karabağ, “HIV pozitifsin, istifa et!” (“You are HIV-Positive — Resign!”) ntvmsnbc, 14 January 2014, http://www.ntvmsnbc.com/id/25491175

Due to his sexual orientation, his relationship with his family was broken off at age 16.  Just as he was getting his life together despite all the difficulties, he contracted HIV from his lover. When his status as HIV positive was revealed, he was forced to quit his job and became isolated.  A.Y. is just one of the victims of social prejudice who found himself in the middle of a very difficult struggle.

A.Y. is 27 years old and found out that he is HIV-positive a year ago. He contracted the HIV virus from his lover . Right now, he is trying to survive and to stand on his own feet. His employer forced him to sign a resignation letter once he found out about his condition and did not pay him a cent of workers’ compensation.

When they learned that he is gay, his family disowned him.  A.Y said that he was kicked out of his own home when he was 16 years old. He does not want talk about this very much and summarized his family’s reaction to his sexual identity with one sentence: “They did not respond to me under any circumstances. There was just my mother who said, “I have no child like that” and more…”

“They did not even open the street door”

When he learned that he was HIV-positive, he turned to his family again and hoped that they would protect him. “I thought they would help me but they did not even open the door to the street. My friends do not want me around them; people at my former job say that it would be better for me to not work. I have been trying to sustain things here and there for a year but I am exhausted.”

“When you are with the person you love, you cannot ask about HIV”

Even though he lacks his family’s love and support, A.Y. somehow succeeded to fight and graduated from the Department of International Trade and Visual Communication Design. He said that everything was going alright until he met his lover who knew that he was HIV-positive but did not tell him. The cost of unprotected sex was very high for A.Y. He said, “I trusted him” and added, “My lover found out that his ex-lover was HIV-positive during the last six months of our relationship. When he got tested and was diagnosed as being HIV-positive, he did not tell me for fear of losing me. That is why I learned about this late. When we talk about unprotected sex, when you are with the person you love and know, you cannot ask whether he has HIV or hepatitis.”

A.Y. was working in the solution management section of a customer relations center at a corporate company before his diagnosis. As he faced health problems, he was also forced to resign and he lost his job. A.Y. said that legal process regarding his forced resignation are still continuing. He explained what transpired at his job below.

“They said that they are very sorry, but they dismissed me”

“My company provided private health insurance and I was on the plan. I did not know that a HIV-diagnosis could be a reason for the termination of an insurance policy. After I got my first drugs, the insurance company immediately sent a letter of termination to my company. Because of that, my condition was revealed. At first I objected but my manager told me that I should bring a health report. They did not have a right to do that but I was up against the wall. They told me that I had to resign. I told them that I could not give up my insurance and that I needed it for my treatment. They claimed they were thinking of me, they had a humane approach, they were so sad for me. But it was all crocodile tears. Their aim was to get rid of me with minimum financial loss and as soon as possible. I was dirt that they needed to be cleansed of. A week later,  I was invited to the Head Office. The company lawyer and the finance manager met with me. The same issues were discussed and then they forced me to resign; they did not give me any compensation.

Prejudices, labels and discrimination hurt the worst

A.Y. feels a little better since he began to get his medication free of charge from the Ministry of Health through the Positive Living Association. His biggest problem for the past year has been trying to find a job.

A.Y. says, “I have not been able to pay my rent for three months. If I do not find a job in a short time, the few belongings I have will be confiscated. I will have to live on the street and I do not know what I will do.” He says that it is the social effects rather than the biological effects of HIV that hurt a person the most. Thus, it is social prejudices, labels and discrimination that constitute a very important part of fighting with this illness.

A.Y. summarized what he feels about this matter, by saying “I understood very clearly that it is not the biological effects of the virus that hurt people but the pressure of social surroundings.  Something must be done to get rid of this pressure. I guess that labeling, humilliation and disgust are the worst part of being gay and HIV-positive. Most people around you think that your end will come  due to AIDS anyway and you only support this idea with your bad mood.”

Expert Dr. Elmi: “HIV does not spread by working at the same place”

A.Y. said, “People do not know that HIV/AIDS is not spread by just being in the same place.” Infection Expert Dr. Şirin Elmi also stressed the same point and said, “HIV spreads by blood or men and women’s sexual fluids. The virus, which dies within a maximum of a couple of hours outside the body is not spread by air. HIV is not spread by touching, shaking hands, kissing cheek to cheek, working in the same place, using the same phone, using the same glass, sharing a pool, toilet or bath, through tears, sweat or by being bitten by a mosquito.”

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