Chuck Smith is a gay man whose partner is living with HIV. He vividly remembers the moment his partner disclosed his status, and for Chuck, it didn’t change anything about their love. “As a man who came out later in life, I know what it’s like to be afraid that you won’t be accepted and loved,” he said. Earlier in his life, Chuck was married to a woman for 12 years and raised three kids with her before he fully realized he is gay.
Chuck is now a vocal advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS. He has been a fundraiser and team captain, for example, for AIDS Walk Kansas City since 2013. He has shared his story about being the partner of someone living with HIV because he wants people to know how far the country has come in detection and treatment of HIV in recent years. “While my partner is HIV positive, his viral load is undetectable. This is something many folks still don’t know is possible, even in communities that have higher rates of HIV. And because my partner’s viral load is undetectable and he takes medication daily to maintain that status, the virus is also untransmittable. I was HIV negative when we started our relationship, and I still am.”
Chuck is also a person of faith. “My faith teaches me that we’re all God’s children,” he said. “It’s how I know we all deserve love. That’s true for those of us who are LGBTQ. And that’s true for everyone who is HIV positive.”
Still, even though we’ve come so far in the conversation around HIV/AIDS, Chuck worries about his partner facing discrimination because of his status. “People who are HIV positive still face tremendous stigma and discrimination,” Chuck said. “My partner is out at work as a gay man. But he is not out about his HIV status, because he’s afraid that he could lose his job if his employer knew. He’s also afraid of how colleagues might treat him, or that his status could be used against him. No one who is qualified and hardworking should be afraid of losing their job or treated unfairly because of who they are.”