HIV diagnosis: Marlon Van Der Mark tackles stigma

Kate Morgan
BBC Wales News


Marlon van Der Mark posted TikTok videos that explain what it is like to have HIV.

“You are disgusting and deserve Aids. You’re detestable.”

These are some of Marlon’s comments after posting an online post about HIV.

He said that it was heartbreaking to see stigma so alive and would like to have a better understanding about the lives of people living with HIV.

The Welsh government stated that tackling HIV discrimination and stigma will be a key part of the HIV Action Plan published next year.

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Van Der Mark was diagnosed at 19 and described the next few years in Cardiff as a “blur” of living with fear of telling others.

He said, “It took almost four years for me to even declare that I am HIV-positive to myself.”

In a TikTok video, he shared his frustrations and said that he felt compelled to share what he learned about HIV living.

“Within minutes, it was blowing out…people were saying how proud of me… He said, “I could breath for the first-time.”

“All these people came pouring in”

However, the activist wrote that he didn’t feel ashamed to admit that HIV stigma was still prevalent.

“It is really terrible. I didn’t think it would after the first one, but it got worse as you watched more videos. It was almost like there were no locks on it and everyone came in.

He claimed that comments included remarks telling him to “put up” and saying that he was “not worthy to be in the world”.

Van Der Mark thinks that much of the abuse stems from outdated information about the Aids crisis. He also believes there is an urgent need to educate people on HIV and how they can live with it in 2021.

“I went to the doctor once every six months for routine checks-ups… He said that he takes one tablet per day, and lives a normal lifestyle.

Van Der Mark said that there is “such fear of getting tested for the virus.”

He said, “It is just stigmatised and it should not be.”

How do you define HIV?

HIV means Human Immunodeficiency Viral – an immunodeficiency, or the weakness of the immune systems due to the virus.

Untreated, it could lead to HIV/AIDS (late-stage HIV) or Aids. This is the term for the collection of diseases caused by HIV.

There are effective drugs that can be used to help people living with HIV live longer and healthier lives.

Modern medicine reduces HIV to undetectable levels. This means that someone cannot get HIV from another person and their health remains protected.

Sources: TerrenceHiggins Trust and NHS

It’s not their problem, according to middle-aged straight men.

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Ella Meggitt from Cardiff said that she needed to confront her stigma after her friend was diagnosed with HIV.

“I thought about what people would think, and then I internalised that to myself. Because I was aware that not everyone knew as much as us.”

According to the 22-year old dance teacher, she has learned that HIV is a serious illness and wants to help others.

She shared that she is now routinely tested for HIV, and uses social media to share her experiences and encourage others.

She said that “middle-aged straight individuals with families aren’t thinking it’s their problem, because they think it’s a young homosexual man’s matter and that’s how it has been since the 1980s.”

“There are more HIV positive people in Wales now than ever”

One of the main aims of Wales HIV-testing week, 22 November to 28 novembre is to break down HIV stigma

Fast Track Cardiff and Vale organize the event, which is a voluntary group created partly to address the high rate of late diagnosis in Wales.

Lisa Power is a group development worker. She said that people aren’t getting diagnosed and tested until they become seriously ill.

“Also remember that HIV-positive people are likely to pass it on to their loved ones,” she said.

This is part of the global network of over 300 cities that has committed itself to UNAIDS’s targets for 90% of HIV-positive persons living in treatment.

It also requests that the Welsh government set clear goals in its HIV Action Plan next year.

Ms Power stated that “there are more HIV positive people living in Wales than ever…” She said, “We haven’t had an information campaign for 14 year which is why we don’t know these new HIV facts that will make it possible to live your life with HIV chronically.”

Spokespeople from the Welsh government stated that they recognize stigma as a significant barrier for effective HIV Prevention measures.

“Tackling HIV stigmatization and discrimination” will be an important part of the HIV Action Plan.


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