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 Dr. Drew Breaks Down HIV Stigma on ‘I’m Positive’ After Show 

I’m Positive took us inside the lives of three young HIV-positive Americans. But what did they have to say when the camera’s stopped rolling? Watch the After Show to find out.

Kelly, Otis, and Stephanie sat down with Dr. Drew and answered questions from a small studio audience. The cast of ‘I’m Positive’ shared all the details of what it’s like living with HIV, and what young people can do to prevent the virus or treat it. Here’s a quick recap on some of the topics they discussed:

On misconceptions about HIV:
In the After Show, Dr. Drew is the first to point out that “many people don’t realize that HIV is not a death sentence. It is a life commitment.” And he’s right. With the advancements in medicine today, HIV-positive people who get treatment, can live long, healthy lives. Still, a lot of people think HIV means one word—death. It doesn’t have to. The entire cast came to agreement that getting HIV information and education is important to clearing up these misconceptions.

On stigma:
Because people aren’t always educated, misconceptions surrounding HIV add to its stigma. As Kelly mentions in the After Show, “You’re not going to get it from touching me. We can share a spoon, or straw…we can hug.” In most cases, HIV is transmitted by unprotected sex, and you can’t get it through casual contact.

Sadly, the stigma leaves HIV-positive people feeling left alone. As Stephanie points out in the After Show, “You take away the fact that I’m still human. I have this disease and it’s manageable, but you’re looking at me like I can’t touch you.” As tears rolled down her cheeks, Stephanie confessed, “I know I’m not a bad person…It stings. It’s like an empty void that you’re trying to fill. And you want somebody to be there, and you want somebody to accept you.”

On relationships:
Being HIV-positive doesn’t mean you can’t have sex or be in a relationship either. In fact, in ‘I’m Positive’ we learn that Otis and his boyfriend Kanhje have been dating for over a year, and the couple are intimate despite Kanhje’s HIV-negative status. Otis shares in the After Show that in order to protect Kanhje, they always use protection. And by getting treated and keeping the amount of the virus in his system low, Otis adds an extra buffer of protection to their intimacy.

Kelly also had a few things to say about dating, including what happened to her and Aaron after the show. While they loved each other very much, Kelly and Aaron had some serious communication issues. Kelly’s no longer on the dating scene, and she’s definitely through with Aaron. Still, for those HIV-positive people who are dating she recommends that they share their status with their bf/gf when they feel comfortable. And to definitely do it before things get “hot and heavy.”

On activism:
The three stars of ‘I’m Positive’ are activists for HIV awareness, and they advocate for the cause for different reasons and in different ways. Otis works at a testing center and wants to do whatever it takes to tell youth that the virus still exists and isn’t a joke, even if that means putting his face on billboards all across Dallas, his hometown. Kelly plans to share her story through speaking engagements around the country, and she does it so that HIV/AIDS will end in this generation. Stephanie volunteers at a jail sharing her status and story with the inmates. She advocates to show people that her life is no different than that of someone who doesn’t have HIV. On the After Show, Stephanie further explains, “That’s what makes me push even more to do the show—to clear up the stigma.”

On the role of positives and negatives:
You don’t have to go on television to do your part in getting to an AIDS-free generation. HIV-positives can start by encouraging friends and family to get tested. They can talk to their partners and always should use protection. Getting treated is another crucial way positives can help end AIDS—if people stay on correct treatment it can prevent their infection from progressing to AIDS.

People who are HIV-negative also have a role to play. They can start by always using protection to prevent the spread of the virus. HIV-negative people should also get tested and ask their doctor to get tested. Finally, HIV-negative people have a role in fighting the stigma surrounding HIV by getting educated and being informed on what HIV is and what it isn’t.

It was Otis in the After Show who best summarized every person’s individual responsibility: “Get educated. Get tested. Know your status. And if you happen to be HIV-positive, please get in care.”

In the end Dr. Drew thanked the cast for sharing their stories and for being so open about their mistakes so that people could avoid making the same mistakes. It was incredibly brave of Kelly, Otis, and Stephanie to share their stories, and we know that they’ll continue to inspire and advocate for HIV awareness in the future!

 MTV Special “I’m Positive” Spotlights Lives of Young HIV-Positive Americans 

Think HIV isn’t affecting your generation here at home in the United States? Think again. This World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, tune in for the ground-breaking MTV documentary “I’m Positive,” airing at 7 pm ET. For the first time ever, MTV will air a 60-minute special digging deep into the lives of three young people from across the U.S. living with HIV. The show, produced by Dr. Drew and created by Lo Bosworth, centers around the challenges and daily triumphs of Kelly, Stephanie and Otis:

Kelly – a true California girl – is laid-back, funny, artsy, and loves hanging out with her friends. She’s HIV positive, and for six months now Kelly has been dating Aaron, who is HIV negative. Their relationship moved fast, and it’s been increasingly rocky. The two are now trying to figure out the next step – whether that’s breaking up or staying together.

Stephanie – a confident, single Southern belle from North Carolina – found out that she was HIV positive when she was just 19 years old. Stephanie contracted the virus after having unprotected sex just once with a partner. While HIV is a part of her daily life, it doesn’t define who she is – she still struggles with the everyday challenges of relationships with family and friends.

Otis – the oldest child in a large, close-knit family – feels responsible to set an example for his younger siblings. That’s why it was hard for him to tell his family he is HIV positive, after having just come out as gay the year before. Currently, Otis is in a serious relationship with his boyfriend, Kanjhe, and they are both committed to making sure that he stays HIV negative.

Although nearly 1.2 million Americans are HIV positive, it’s rare to go behind the diagnosis and see what living with HIV each day is really like. “I’m Positive” pushes past the common myths and stereotypes surrounding HIV and shows that HIV is a part of people’s lives, but doesn’t become their lives.

After the show, there are a ton of ways to learn more about HIV/AIDS and how you can protect yourself and your health. A web-exclusive after show special will be hosted Dr. Drew on MTV.com.

And while you’re online, check out GYTNow.org. Getting the right information and being informed is the first step in protecting yourself and others from HIV. The site can also help you find cheap and low cost testing near you. Even if you’re positive, all STDs and HIV are treatable, and the webpage can guide you in those next steps.

Finally, speak up and keep the conversation going! During “I’m Positive” and even after the show #positivetalk will be buzzing on Twitter and Instagram.

Remember, whether positive or negative, we all have a role to play in ending AIDS. Be a force for positive change.