Host, HIV Advocate – Johneri’O Scott shares how to learn to love yourself and your status
“I wish more people understood that your status doesn’t define you, you define your status.”
Johneri’O Scott often gets told, “You don’t look like you have HIV.”
“That’s the thing,” he says. “It’s not a look.”
The Atlanta-based talk show host, radio personality, and author, Johneri’O Scott sat down with the Take Control HIV Community to discuss his status, his journey, and his message for all living with HIV:
From fear to advocacy
Having lived with HIV for eight years, Johneri’O’s TikTok and Instagram content is a space where he inspires others with his openness and honesty about his diagnosis. While now he lives out and proud, he wasn’t always so optimistic about a life with HIV.
Johneri’O had regular checkups, played sports, and had just graduated from college. He felt healthy but had symptoms he couldn’t explain. He was encouraged to get tested after seeing an ad on Facebook.
“I didn’t know much about HIV when I was diagnosed,” he said. “I thought my life was over. I immediately went home from the clinic and told my mom,” he remembers.
Throughout the process of dealing with his diagnosis, Johneri’O focused on educating himself. With a background in journalism, Johneri’O did what he knew best – research.
“I knew that this couldn’t be the end,” he says.
He used websites like HIV.gov for statistics. He attended meetings and support groups to hear how other people were dealing with the diagnosis. Most importantly, he talked to his doctor and asked questions.
Now, he works to educate others with the same fear he had.
Disclosing – Yes, or no?
After being diagnosed, Johneri’O, like all others living with HIV, learned to navigate life with HIV. One of the biggest hurdles, he recognizes, is disclosing your status. It can be a touchy subject and he realizes people have plenty of reasons to disclose or not disclose.
For Johneri’O, he finds it best to “rip the band-aid off.” While not everyone needs to know your status, he strongly recommends disclosing BEFORE having sex.
“You’ll know when the time is right,” he says. “If you feel the relationship is going somewhere, DISCLOSE.”
HIV Advocacy and What’s Next
With a life and career now committed to helping others who are HIV+, Johneri’O says his purpose is to help people that had the same fears he did when he was diagnosed.
As an HIV tester, Johneri’O heard people ask, “Who is going to love me?” He says he wants to encourage everyone to LIVE OUT LOUD. “Your diagnosis does not make you, you make it,” he says.
Right now, his focus is on providing people with HIV resources. There are many resources for housing, medical bills, and other assistance for people living with HIV, but you need to know where to look.
He also encourages people to get tested as often as they can. Even once a year is better than nothing.
“Knowing your status will give you more relief than if you don’t get tested,” he says. “Just go do it.”
If you’re looking for a sign to get tested, this is it! Join the Take Control HIV community by following us on social media and fight the stigma.