The Voice of Night Vale is opening up about being diagnosed with HIV, and shutting down stigmas about living with the disease.
Cecil Baldwin, an actor most famous for his role on the popular Welcome To Night Vale podcast, chatted on Seriously TV's show "Shutting Down Bulls!*t" with host Dylan Marron, who plays Cecil's boyfriend Carlos on the podcast. During the interview, Baldwin revealed that he is HIV-positive and that the fears associated with HIV are outdated.
"We're at this age in 2016 where so many people in America and worldwide have HIV and are living with it," he said.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1.2-million Americans are currently living with HIV, with gay and bisexual men, especially African-American men, most affected. Baldwin's reveal has inspired a wave of positive response online, with more people coming out about being HIV-positive, living with someone who is or simply wanting to get rid of the stigma.
Holy shit holy shit holy shit! I love when people discuss their HIV status in a positive (heh) light! Thank you @CecilBaldwinIII!
— Ahistorical Dadbod (@onebrightlight) August 19, 2016
— Jackie/Red (@DoilySpider) August 19, 2016
@CecilBaldwinIII is such an inspiration to the lqbt+ community. As a gay dude myself it's so amazing to have someone like him to look up to♡
— J♤KER (@saga_senpai) August 19, 2016
We have seen progression over the past decade, thanks to increased HIV testing and better support for people living with HIV. The number of new people being diagnosed with HIV has gone down, and the life expectancy of those living with the disease has improved (though it's still 13 years shorter than for HIV-negative people).
Baldwin first found out he was HIV-positive during a routine STD check-up shortly after moving to New York City, and he talked about how devastating that news was for him. He said he went into a "period of mourning" and was tempted to move back home with his parents.
However, an experience at a tattoo parlor turned that around. Baldwin talked about having to fill out a consent form, which included the question "Are you HIV-positive?"
"It was the first time my status had been brought up in an everyday situation outside of the doctor's office," Baldwin said. "[The tattoo artist] just looked at me and said 'My sister has it; it's not a big deal.'"
While Baldwin mentioned that the HIV stigma is nowhere near as bad as it used to be, like during the AIDS Scare of the 1980s, he still fears prejudice and discrimination. For example, when he's travelling the country (like for Welcome To Night Vale live shows) and has to go to a new pharmacy for his HIV medication. There are still plenty of myths and stereotypes surrounding HIV, even today.
The most common myth? That being HIV-positive means you're "dirty." Well, Cecil Baldwin doesn't have time for that bullshit.
"I'm HIV-positive, and bitch, I shower every day," he said.
— Cecil Baldwin (@CecilBaldwinIII) August 19, 2016