Ontare Calwise has been living with HIV for nearly 15 years. When he was first diagnosed, like many others he was scared and worried about being able to find accurate information and support. He’s grateful that he had people he trusted that he could turn to.
Ontare believes that the harms of a continued lack of awareness and understanding around HIV are exacerbated by the fact that there is no federal law explicitly banning discrimination against LGBTQ people. Although 29 states currently have laws in place, this patchwork leaves too many Americans behind, including Ontare, as there are no statewide protections in Ohio where he resides. Discrimination still happens everyday to LGBTQ people, and those living with HIV are at even higher risk of being treated unfairly.
For Ontare, this type of discrimination often manifests itself in the doctor’s office. He recalls being denied treatment by medical providers and their tendency to avoid him at appointments. In the part of Ohio where he lives, there is only one doctor who treats patients with HIV, making it difficult to get assistance without advance notice. Despite the challenges, Ontare’s experience as a black gay man compels him to help and bring encouragement to young people like him. He is an example of how people with HIV can thrive, and why state and federal nondiscrimination laws are so important for LGBTQ people.
To read more from Ontare, visit https://www.cleveland.com/opinion/2020/11/living-with-hiv-when-lgbtq-rights-arent-guaranteed-ontare-calwise.html.