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Pulse Shooting Wasn’t Just About Homophobia: The Stigma of Being HIV Positive

Pulse shooter Omar Mateen's ex-lover on Univision.

Pulse shooter Omar Mateen’s ex-lover told Univision that Mateen feared he might be HIV positive.

Stigma Of Living With HIV+ Compelled Omar Mateen To Attack Pulse Nightclub

Ex-lover says Pulse shooting was not about homophobia, but seeking revenge.

In an interview with Univision, the unidentified man (who’s face is distorted in the image above to protect his identity) said that Mateen was “100 percent gay” and felt “used” by Latino men, whom he had a preference for.

“I’ve cried like you have no idea,” the man told Univision. “But the thing that makes me want to tell the truth is that he didn’t do it for terrorism. In my opinion he did it for revenge.”

Mateen’s ex-lover — whom he had met on a gay dating site — revealed to Univision that Mateen was infuriated after finding out that a man he had sex with was HIV-positive, but didn’t disclose that he was infected with the disease until after the two slept together.

Despite testing “negative” for the disease, Mateen knew that it would take two to five months before the test result was certain. And that window of worry may have been the spark that sent him over the edge.

Calling Mateen “a very sweet guy,” the man said he was shocked to hear about what happened in Orlando. “My reaction was, ‘That can’t be the man I know. It’s impossible that the man I know could do that,'” he explained to Univision.

Mateen’s fears about the reality of living life with HIV, especially as a homosexual man, were not unfounded.

Days after Pulse shooting, gay men were turned away by blood banks from donating to the 49 victims of the tragedy. Even if potential donors tested “negative” for HIV, they were still banned from giving blood.

It is not in any way farfetched to suggest that placing a prohibition on gay-identified men, looking to do their part as citizens and good human beings by donating blood, is attributable to bogus, scientifically debunked assumptions about the correlation between the sexual behavior of gays and HIV contraction.

HIV remains the most stigmatized disease of all known life-threating viruses. Most people across the globe still associate it strictly with sexual contact and view it as a death sentence.

According to a report conducted by Avert.org — a website dedicated to “sharing knowledge” and “empower[ing] people to protect themselves and others from infection, reduce stigma and improve HIV programmes globally” — 50 percent of men and women around the world hold a discriminatory attitude against people living with HIV.

(Read the full article here.)

Discrimination against individuals living with HIV can lead to such consequences as “loss of income and livelihood,” “loss of marriage and childbearing options,” “loss of hope and feelings of worthlessness,” “criminalization” and more.

Not even the advent of technologies and medication that allow HIV-infected persons to live longer lives has reduced the prejudice endured by HIV community.

A disturbing mixture of anger, frustration, betrayal and internalized homophobia may have played a significant role in Mateen’s attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando. While the lives of LGBTQ communities in America will never be the same, this revelation is a reminder that we among the living must do more to stomp out any act of stigmatization of HIV that may serve as the raw ingredient of gender violence.


Antwan is an educator, cultural critic, actor, and writer for Wear Your Voice Mag (WYV), where he focuses on the dynamics of class, race, gender, politics, and pop culture. Prior to joining the team at WYV, he was an adjunct professor in the African American Studies Department at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia, where he taught African American Literature. He has traveled the U.S. and U.K. showcasing a fifty-five minute, one-person play titled Whitewash, which focuses on the state of black men in the post-civil rights era. Antwan received his B.A. in English and Literature from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and M.A. in African American Studies from University of California, Los Angeles. He is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and NAACP theater nominee.

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