How do you overcome stigma the dark shadow over an idea or thing that makes people jump to drastic conclusions? For Brad Setter, its all about awareness bringing the thing thats so stigmatized into the public light to get rid of the shadow.
Setter, a 24-year-old student at College of DuPage, knows a thing or two about stigma. He served in the US Marine Corps from 2007-2011, and toward the end of his service, he came out to a friend in the Marines, who told another person, who told another person, and you can see where this is going. The stigma around being gay in the military broke Setters relationships with his fellow Marines.
All of a sudden, these guys I was serving next to were turning against me, bullying me. I couldnt believe it.
But after he was discharged from the marines in 2011 and moved to Phoenix, he got his confidence back through working at a bar, which raised money for LGBT causes. It was a breath of fresh air for Setter, to see one community build its members up after his painful experience in the marines, who tore him down.
I never knew that a business could be so active in giving back to the community. It really taught me a lot, said Setter.
While in Phoenix, Setter dated two men who were HIV-positive. These seriodiscordant relationships (where one partner is HIV-positive and one is HIV-negative) taught him about the way people living with HIV have to battle the stigma around the disease in public and within themselves.
I was hanging out with the first guy I dated who I didnt know what HIV-positive at the time, and all of a sudden he just started crying. I didnt know what to do, so I just held him. He later told Setter the news about his HIV status; the two of them talked through it, and Setter went to a local health clinic to learn more about HIV.
I see the toll it takes on their lives. But I just feel you need to realize people are people first, and HIV/AIDS is something outside of that.
Setter has participated in HIV/AIDS fitness events in both Phoenix and Chicago; this year will mark the second time he has participated in AIDS Run & Walk Chicago. Hes running for Youth Outlook, a nonprofit organization in the Chicago suburbs.
Its so important to end the stigma around HIV/AIDS out in the suburbs. Im looking forward to bringing some visibility to the cause.
AIDS Run & Walk Chicago will take place on Sept. 14 at Arvey Field in Grant Park. To register or donate, go to aidsrunwalk.org.
Categorized under Inside Story.