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i have finally disclosed to my employer

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that's right. in my quest to follow up on the motto of "our dignity, the positive project" which i participated in at "staying alive" conference 2006, i have taken another step in my quest to put an end to stigma.

i have been an insurance agent for a very large property and casualty company here in the u.s.   during the past 22 years that i have been hiv+, the only employee of the company i ever disclosed to was my immediate supervisor, or what our company would call a district mgr, and there have been a few of them over that 22 year period.

one of the reasons, back in 1986, that i did not want to disclose was because my father was an agent,  and when he was going to retire his book of business was supposed to roll over to my book. obviously with aids being a death sentence back then, to disclose might have meant the company would not have approved that rollover.

several years have passed now and i have remained physically healthy, however mentally,  what has angered me the most has been the stigma surrounding this disease. i have always felt there is something seriously wrong with living with an illness you couldn't feel comfortable talking to others about.  and the longer this feeling has festered, the angrier i have gotten.

so when regan hofmann put that challenge out there at "staying alive" with the motto "fear the virus, not us" i bit that forbidden fruit and went for it. the first thing i did was to participate in "the positive project" submitting to a lengthy taped interview about my life with hiv, which along with interviews of over 50 other plwa's,  will eventually be edited into future aids ads and training & educational dvd's.

soon thereafter, extreme makeover, home edition came to our town to film their season finale. the woman the house was being built for had adopted 2 hiv positive kids and she also volunteered at a camp for positive kids.

a good friend of mine was the point person for the builder and he knew i was hiv positive. therefore he asked me if i could get my company to donate the insurance for the new house. i went to my company with the opportunity and they accepted the challenge.

during the couse of the week i,  as the possible agent, spent the time hoping to raise aids awareness and submitted to a few interviews with the nedia, revealing that the reason i was selected as the insurance rep was because i was positive and had ties to the aids community.

not everything went as smoothly as i wanted but i did get to speak with the woman who was having the house built for her. we have made the connection i was hoping for and in the future i hope to get her positive sons involved in an adolesent aids project here in our state.

today i was contacted by a reporter for my companies monthly newsletter. this is a national publication which goes out to all their customers, employees, management, and board of directors.

since, for reasons i'd rather not get into,  our company did not write the insurance, i hadn't a clue why they wanted to do this story. but i decided to call once i realized there was an opportunity here that this late in my career i might not otherwise get on such a grand scale.

extreme makeover did such a wonderful job on that final show raising aids awreness and trying to put an end to stigma, that i felt it was time for me to step up and do the same. so when the reporters first question was "how did you come to get involved on this project?" my entire lifes history with this virus, and my failure to disclose to my company because of the stigma associated with it,  just began to flow from my mouth to the pages of this reporters pad. i didn't hold anything back, covering all my aids activities, volunteerism, awards, and  found a way to tie it all into how, as a long term agent,  it was important to give back to my community. 

i felt extremely liberated by the end of the interview, and more importantly, i made a huge impression on a young reporter, who had quite a different impression on aids before she started the interview. she said that the young adults she hangs around with do not view aids with the same negativity as those who were around it in the 80's. but after talking to me, she understood that it still exists in the eyes of many, and that reducing stigma is a necessity.

so today i am no longer in hiding with my hiv, as i have torn down that final wall by disclosing to my employer. the issue will be out in their august edition and it will be interesting to see the response. i don't doubt a few heads will turn.

i'll keep you all posted in the future.

scott daly
aka, kellyspoppi         

That is awesome Scott!  It feels good to come out of the HIV closet!

Miss Philicia:
That's a really great story.  You must feel good.

Very very cool. Bravo Scott!

Melia ;)

Great story Scott...and very proud of you.

Jan :-*


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