Becoming an advocate for people living with HIV

advocate - positive peers

People living with HIV stick together and help each other out. Standing up against the haters is one of the great ways we do that.

Why bother with the haters? Shouldn’t you just ignore them and walk away?

If someone’s up in your face, for sure. Safety first, it’s probably not worth engaging them. That just gives them attention they don’t deserve. We suggest holding your head up high and moving on.

But some haters you’ll never meet in real life. These haters have money and power and don’t bat an eye when they take actions or make decisions that make living with HIV harder for you. They don’t always know or care that their decisions make it hard for you to get the care you need, to have consensual sex, or to live without stigma.

That’s why so many people living with HIV become HIV advocates. Being an advocate means you can help lead the charge to protect everybody’s rights, stand up to hate and stigma, and stop the spread of HIV. Here are a few ways you can become an advocate:

advocate - positive peers

Make the commitment

Before you do anything else, it’s important to make up your mind that you want to take action. It’s okay to take some time to think about the consequences of speaking up and figure out what you’re comfortable with. And it’s okay if you choose not to engage in activism.

Haters might say some nasty things, and that’ll sting at first. Some people may even assume you’re living with HIV simply because you’re an activist. That’s fine, it’s not their business, but it may still be worth considering how your friends and family may respond.

However, if you want to commit, know that you’re not alone. You are capable of making a real difference in your life and the lives of others. How’s that song go? Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. So, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake it off.

If you need more motivation, just remember that old saying: All evil needs to thrive is for good people to do nothing.


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Find some allies

Every famous person who “changed the world” had lots of help. We encourage you to be like them, and don’t try to do it all on your own.

You can start by finding two or three friends or family members who will join you in your quest to stand up to hate. Then move on to your HIV support group.

Not everybody wants to get involved — but it’s not worth holding it against them. Everybody has to work within their comfort level, including you.

advocate - positive peers

Plan an awareness activity

HIV awareness events happen all year. Maybe you could join the next one you hear about! It’s fun to together with your allies over dinner and drinks and figure out what you want to do. Strategy (your overall plan) and tactics (stuff you do to make the plan happen) are important things to think about.

Your event doesn’t have to be complicated or elaborate. It could be as simple as tweets or Instagram posts. If there’s a march, you may even get a group together and join it.

advocate - positive peers

Join an HIV advocacy group

HIV advocacy groups need all the help they can get — time, money, talent, they’ll take it. They are a great chance to get involved where you can really make a big contribution. Here are a few excellent groups to join:

  • AIDS United: One of the leading all-around HIV advocacy organizations.
  • Lambda Legal: Specializes in legal issues for LGBT people and those living with HIV
  • Advocates for Youth: Helps young people mobilize to for HIV-related causes.

(For more on becoming an HIV advocate, check out this fine article at

Standing up to hate: It’s the right thing to do

The right thing is often the hardest thing to get done. But doing the hard stuff gives you the feels and makes the biggest difference. And that’s what drives people to make the world better.

After all, every great thing that ever happened started with a few people making up their minds to get it done.

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Positive Peers is made possible through a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Grant to The MetroHealth System. Click here for more information about the SPNS grant initiative.
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