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Finding Support

What’s it like living with HIV? How do you cope if faced with rejection and discrimination?
We asked gay, bi, queer guys living with HIV in Toronto to share their experiences.

“My friends and family were extremely supportive. I also go to organizations like ACT and PWA and accessed a bunch of their services. Being around other people who were HIV+ was extremely helpful.”

“Healthcare workers. I wanted all the correct information!”

“There are organizations in Toronto with workers who care about you. I was a newcomer to Canada and I did not know what to do. These people helped – go and find them! Listening to others also really helps.”

“Friends, therapists, and my doctor.”

“Friends were an invaluable support when it came to talking and processing what I was feeling.

“My chosen family is a mixture of friends and family that are in my support network. They are the ones who I feel I can truly be myself without any judgement.”

“They are there to learn and support you and will never judge you or reject you. Regardless of your past and your present. They will be there when you fall to pick you up.”

“Chosen family means acceptance, listens, and shows compassion…but don’t pity me, be strong for me. That’s FAMILY for me. That’s chosen.”

“These are the people I choose to be close to. They are able to provide the love and support I need and vice versa. My blood family is traditional and not very expressive… I don’t blame them for not being able to support me. It’s just too big a gap for some of them to manage.”

“My friends are my entire life and I’m extremely lucky to have found such incredible people. Those that do not judge, that want to listen and learn from each other, and encourage each other to succeed. They saved my life when I was in a dark place after my diagnosis.”

“Chosen family” means you don’t really have to work too hard explaining things to them. They trust you and love you for who you are. They respect your autonomy with no judgment, and they don’t try to turn you into something that meets only their expectations, however benevolent these expectations are.”

“Remind myself that they are not worth my sexual experience and that they are the ones missing out.”

“Oh, I block and keep it moving. For maybe a second I feel rejection but there’s no point because you just dodged a bullet!”

“It was hard at first, but you have to let it go. Again, being undetectable, I feel like I didn’t have to disclose my status if we didn’t even know what was going to happen. I think being too upfront can have its drawbacks.”

“I tell myself I do not need an uneducated person who does not listen to me, then I feel good and go for the next!”

“They are allowed to have their own opinions whether it’s about my sexual orientation or my status but if they can’t accept me, then they can kiss my black ass. Thank you. Next!”

“Time heals a lot of wounds. Being open and honest with yourself. Being kind to yourself. And knowing that if they are meant to be in your life, then they will come around.”

“I meditate–A LOT! Learning to accept/embrace/love myself all parts of me–all the good AND not-ideal parts, without judgment, is a significant part of my practice.”

“Give them time and sit back to process my anger. Reminding myself that I was that person before and education and persistence is what helped me. They need the same kind of TLC.”

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