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A Poet's Take on HIV Discrimination: "Stigma Undressed"


HIV Equal receives countless forms of media art submissions, and every now and again we receive something so moving that our editors feel it needs to be shared with the public. Below is a poem written by Jamil Eric Wilkins.


by Jamil Eric Wilkins

Such a misunderstanding strangled the grief of many men,

Riding the back of an epidemic that was building momentum.

Nothing more than a SAD TUTU IN GROWN MEN’S ATTIRE

Working desperately to prevent those surviving from climbing higher.


A claim that gay male sexuality meant continuous promiscuity,

Gay men so deeply closeted that they were prepared to die secretly.

Or suicides substituted with marks of disgrace with a face of duplicity;

Is sex synonymous with freedom from the public political conformity?


“Just wash up when you’re done, and you’ll be fine, Boy Scout.”

It wasn’t too long before assaulting intimacy became a desirable route.

A stain formed by a plague appealing to the protection of civilization;

In case you missed it, I’m talking about HIV criminalization.


Let’s retreat for now in the security of gay urban ghettos — okay —

A community soon betrayed in a civil war of gay against gay.

An opposition so insidious that till this day it continues to reign;

Those living with HIV are guilty of a crime not fit to have a name.


A promiscuous subculture betrayed the ideals behind liberation,

Compelling shame to compete with the antidote of oppression.

A simple misunderstanding even took hold of some women;

Some entangled in the truth of reality that was seen as forbidden.


Men were buried very deep in the cemetery of living graves,

Drilled deeper than a flooded prostate filled with toxic flames.

Uneducated survivors were left so disparaged and dour,

Their calluses ran deep from racing against the hour.


We continue to face “POSITIVE PEOPLE” terminology,

That purges identity and shapes an unfavorable ideology.

Dreams tempered by a fear that places illness before the self,

Robbing opportunities to define value and true worth.


A fundamental asseveration that must be suggested —

Record it; write it down, so that it can be repeated.

Declaring to the self, “This condition is only inside of me”

“We are above, we are before, we are against this impurity.”


No infamy or reproach will trample on the deeds of the past,

Our courageous and thriving stance proves that it will not last.

We’ll eliminate this obnoxious stigma someday, somehow;

The victory begins with self-empowerment — the time is now.


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