My HIV story started in 2014 when one of my dreams got true; I got accepted as a member of the cabin crew of Emirates Airlines. I was preparing to get my visa to move to Dubai and got advised to do some tests in my home country before moving over.
One of these tests was about HIV. I tested positive and since you are not allowed to live in Dubai if you test positive, I withdrew my application silently. At the same time, I was deadly scared because back then I didn’t know anything about it.
In a country like Lebanon, being gay is something you keep secret and we have to hide it… We have some gay clubs but they are undercover and you can’t even kiss there. So you can imagine how living with HIV is. The great thing is that I can get treated and the doctor is wise enough to help and be there for me.
What is good about HIV is something I will always say: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. For me now all other problems are minor. And in the end, I’m alive and this thing I have is just a pill per day. As long as I am staying healthy everything is good.
One of the challenges is the stigma here. My status should be top-secret. I will be heavily discriminated against if people find out I am positive; my parents, my dates and maybe my friends as well. Whenever I go on a date and things start getting serious, it is the hardest time for me as I should confess about my case. Something that is always hard and ALWAYS ends badly with a break-up. No one here accepts the fact of dating a positive guy. So I’ve been single for the past 3 years and I’m not willing to date again in my country.
Another thing, I am/was a manager in a gym for 7 branches… Working there for years. I forgot a medicament bottle in my office. My colleague went to get a paper while I was having lunch so I let them in… They saw the bottle and knew what it was (I don’t know how). The next day I was terminated from my job. They said it will be confidential and I hope it will… I was treated like I stole something. And now I am unemployed.
I wish people in the Middle East and Gulf area are more aware of what HIV really is. I wish they start treating us like normal people. What’s happening here is so unfair.
Update from Joseph [May 2021]
So here I am, after the explosion in Beirut, we were allowed to get a tourist visa in France. I got one and flew to Paris, thanks to many suggestions and help I got previously from Questionmark. I got the needed information about asylum and I applied for it in Lille, France.
I was scared at the beginning, I did not know anybody in this city. But people here are so helpful and nice, they hosted me without even knowing who I am. I changed five houses in the first month. Now I live with a nice person until I get asylum approval.
Meanwhile, the government pays us a bit so we can eat and stay alive, they provide us with free insurance, too. I had so many doubts about this big step, but now I say I'm so glad I did it. Here, I feel happy and safe. People do not judge me because I am gay nor because I am HIV positive. I made a few friends and can't wait to start working once I have my papers.
I am looking to start a new life from the beginning. For all of you who are having the same problems, do not hesitate to leave places that keep you down for a destination where you can be yourself, live proud and be free. 🏳️🌈❤️
Note from Questionmark
Questionmark reached out and asked if he was in need of any support. Joseph said he doesn't need anything right now and that's better to support other people who do.
Thank you to each and every one of you who reached out and supported in every way you could. Together we are stronger.