An HIV-infected man dared people to touch him as a social experiment. The man is named Janne and he lives in Finland. His goal was to raise awareness about HIV and also to challenge the stigma surrounding the disease. Janne went to a public area and held out a sign asking people to touch him as well as making it known that he has the disease.
His approach may seem unusual to some and unconventional, but his motives were sincere and his act showed true bravery according to My Fox Philly. The reactions of the public were caught on camera and the responses varied. Some people looked at the sign and kept moving while others approached him and either held his hand or patted him on the shoulder. Some men, women, and even children stepped forward to hug Janne and this moved him to tears.
RYOT said that initially the man received judgmental stares and confused looks. Then, one woman came up to him and held his hand and this set off a chain reaction. Others followed suit and approached him in an encouraging manner. The first woman’s act of kindness inspired others and motivated them to open themselves up to this vulnerable man, who was asking for understanding and acceptance.
This HIV-infected man dared people to touch him, not knowing what response he would get. His intention as he put it was to challenge the stigma that people have about the disease. Some people are afraid to touch those who they know have HIV and his act forced them to take some sort of action and face their fears so to speak. He stood up to the public and challenged them and made them face this issue. Some people ignore it while he has to live with it every day. As RYOT put it, a grand gesture is not always necessary to appeal to people’s hearts.
There are several factors that can lead to Aids and/or HIV stigma and discrimination, according to Web MD. HIV is a deadly disease that is feared by many. Many have the misconception that the disease can be caught through casual contact. They fear that touching an infected person, sharing a drink with them, or using the same toilet seat as an infected person will put them at risk. As Web MD stated, this is completely false. The disease is not obtained through casual contact, but still many fear that being near an infected person will put their life in jeopardy. The article also pointed out that many connect HIV with things that are also stigmatized by some such as homosexuality and drug use. Other people believe that having HIV/Aids is the person’s own fault. These individuals see people who are infected as immoral and needing of punishment.
There will always be discrimination surrounding HIV and Aids and there is no simple answer for how to deal with the stigma involved. Raising awareness about the disease and the struggle involved is important and that is exactly what Janne was trying to do. This brave, HIV-infected man dared people to touch him and face their fears. He refused to let his disease define him and wanted the world to know that he is a person with feelings who deserves to be respected and noticed. He did not want the disease to force him into the darkness; he stepped out into the light and dared people to take notice. Some supported him and some did not, but the point is that he took a stand and that is what it takes to potentially improve rights for HIV and Aids victims.
By Heather Granruth
RYOT: This Video of an HIV-Positive Man Asking People to Touch Him Will Make You Cry
MY Fox Philly: Man With HIV Asks Strangers to Touch Him in Social Experiment
Mashable: An HIV-Positive Man Closed His Eyes and Asked People to Touch Him
Google Scholar: Suffering, Shame, and Silence: The Stigma of HIV/Aids by Lynne Duffy
Web MD: Aids Discrimination and Stigma: How to Cope
Photo Courtesy of Tony Webster’s Flickr Page- Creative Commons License
Photo Courtesy of Ted Eytan’s Flickr Page- Creative Commons License