Karl Schmid talks +Life, being HIV positive and ending HIV stigma

Karl Schmid wants to talk about sex and help need the stigma of HIV.

“Good sexual health practices apply to everyone,” says Schmid, 39, an entertainment reporter who has worked with KABC and Logo and is editorial director of +Life, a new digital platform that shares information and inspiration for people living with HIV and the people who support them. Its mission is to end the stigma associated with being HIV positive.

“For people in the middle of the country who voted for Donald Trump, HIV isn’t on their radar. They think fags are dirty.”

In the United States, too many Americans with HIV are aware that they have it, and far too few have the virus under control through effective treatment, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Also, too few Americans are taking PrEP, the daily pill that prevents HIV, according to the report.

+Life features interviews with newsmakers, first-person accounts positive living, and a mix of lifestyle, entertainment, and news coverage.

For example, in one segment, Schmid talks with Dr. Anthony Fauci, perhaps the most eminent HIV-AIDS physician and researcher.

Another segment spotlights a discussion on the concept of Undetectable Equals Untransmittable, also known as U=U, which means a person’s HIV viral load is so low that it is undetectable and can’t be transmitted to another person.

In an interview with Q Voice News, Schmid, who identifies as gay and disclosed his HIV positive status in March 2018, talks about normalizing the conversation about HIV, ending the HIV stigma, and why he doesn’t date anymore.

Here are some excerpts.

+Life’s audience

“I’m talking  to everyone. Good sexual health practices apply to everyone,” Schmid says. “For people in the middle of the country who voted for Donald Trump, HIV isn’t on their radar. They think fags are dirty.

“I want to reach as many people as possible, no matter where they are from, no matter who they fuck, no matter where they live,” Schmid says. “It’s important to talk to people who don’t think HIV impacts them.”

 +Life idea

“I talked with my producing partners who I have worked with for 10 years,” Schmid says. “We thought, Wouldn’t it be great to have a platform where people can connect and see versions of themselves, and we can have an updated conversation on HIV?

‘Scaring the shit out of people’

“We did a good job in the 1980s and 90s in scaring the shit out of people, but there hasn’t been a proper campaign that talks to everybody,” Schmid says. “The mainstream needs the information in this day and age.”

Normalize HIV conversation

“We are having engaging conversations with people. We are giving the facts, but putting it in everyday language,” Schmid says. “We normalize the conversation and hope to end the stigma. The more you say the letters HIV out loud, the more you normalize it,” Schmid says.

HIV stigma

“There’s a more dangerous infection than HIV, and it’s stigma. It’s blossomed why worse than the HIV epidemic. People stick their head in the sand. People are afraid to get tested or go to a sexual health clinic. So much is stacked against getting HIV under control because of stigma.

“Sex is the one common dominator that every person on the planet has, but we are so afraid to talk about it. We shame people for being sexually active.”

Karl Schmid discloses his status

“That’s why I didn’t tell my status for 10 years. Well-meaning people said, You don’t want to be known as ‘The guy on TV with HIV.’ 

Eventually, Schmid told his truth in a March 2018 Facebook post. 

“I’m not a celebrity or superstar or walk around like an HIV activist. I just told my truth.

“I follow an Instagram feed called the AIDS Memorial. I bought their T-shirt, but had never worn it. I threw on the t-shirt and went to have drinks with some friends. I posted the photo to the Instagram feed and then on my Facebook page,” Schmid says.

“I didn’t realize the level of internalized stigma I had on myself. “Nobody in this day and age needs to feel like a second class citizen or feel that they did something to deserve this.”

‘I don’t date anymore’

“I’ve been damned if I did and damned if I didn’t when it came time to disclosing,” Schmid says. “Some of the harshest reactions have been from gay white men. I have had drinks thrown in my face. I have had people spit on me. To have to make this announcement every single time is incredibly stressful. It’s worse than coming out. I don’t date anymore.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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