In honor of National Gay Men's HIV Awareness Day, senior director of communications at GLAAD, Tony Morrison, is offering advice for others who have tested positive.
Morrison tells Sonia Baghdady of Advocate Now that he first tested positive in 2013, and though it's been an uphill battle, he's emerged stronger than ever. Though he previously kept his diagnosis "under the rug in shame," he was inspired to share his status in a 2021 personal essay.
Tony Morrison Opens Up About HIV Diagnosis
"HIV is actually the most managed thing in my life, which is crazy to say out loud," Morrison explains. "I was just met with this feeling of, how dare I live a life of shame when so many like myself didn't get that chance. Life became really good for me and worth living when I gave myself permission to really live like that."
Though he felt as if "power was taken from me," Morrison was able to take the time to "really look at myself in the mirror and grant that power back to myself." While a diagnosis may bring feelings of powerlessness, those on proper medication can become "undetectable," meaning they can no longer spread the virus, and are able to "live long and healthy lives."
However, many people are unaware of the resources and information available, even with modern improvements to health care. HIV representation is something that's important to Morrison now, as he "didn't have really anyone to look to or be inspired by to see the reality of what it was like to live with HIV."
He hopes that sharing his story will inspire others who have been diagnosed, and demonstrate that they can live full lives, free of shame. He encourages them not to hide themselves, but to live their truth.
"Your superpower is your story. That's the one thing that no one can take from you. And I think that once you start living in that truth, everything, everything changes," he says, adding, "An HIV diagnosis really is a beginning because you're faced with something that's very heavy. And the reality is that reality is not what it once was, but the power in that is it's a reality that you can make for your own self."