This man has HIV. Sheltered from human contact, he takes to the streets of Helsinki to challenge the power of stigmas.
Uncertainty can be its own beast. It can eat away at one’s soul until it destroys it — or it can encourage someone to go outside their comfort zone.
When the world perceives that person as “different” for whatever reason, they often have a target on their back because of a choice that they made — or as a direct result of something they have no control over. It’s almost as if society puts a tag on them that says, “Stigma Alert”, when they really want to make a sign that says, “I’m no less different than you.”
That’s exactly what one man who tested HIV-positive did recently — only, his sign said, “Touch me.”
Hidden away from society and human contact, the anonymous gentleman stood on the crowded streets of Helsinki, Finland, with nothing but outstretched arms and his hand-made sign as seen in the video above. At first, the reaction from people passing by was a combination of fear, uncertainty and skepticism. Some even stared a hole through him as they walked by, but one woman was kind enough to approach him and squeeze his hand.
That was all it took.
From that moment on, people gave the man warm gestures — touching his arms, shoulders and even hugging him to let him know they supported his efforts. Judging from the video, he was only looking to challenge the power of stigmas — but walked away with a glow in his heart and tears in his eyes.
Those people could have just kept walking, but they didn’t. They were unsure enough to walk over to this man and embrace him, even though his body was infected with the AIDS virus — a disease that kills thousands and increases the need for confidentiality for patients around the world.
If this man was willing to put himself out there like this, it begs a question that humanity is still answering: What do we truly stand up for?