Virtual and Viral: Josh Robbins Chronicles Living with HIV

Written by | HIV

josh robbins

Photo courtesy Josh Robbins

When Josh Robbins decided to engage very publicly with the world about his HIV status, it began a journey that would change lives (including his own).

Josh Robbins displayed symptoms of acute HIV syndrome in early 2012. As he headed to a clinic that January for his HIV test results, he chronicled those life-changing moments on video and audio.

“I just got the news,” he says into the camera lens. “I’m positive and my viral load is at five million, so we’ve got a lot of work to do to get that thing down. So now I’m going to catch a plane, so I can go home and tell my Mom.”

Just a few weeks after the 29-year-old Tennessean informed his family, he shared his story with the world – posting the poignant YouTube video to his online blog “I’m Still Josh,” and again on Facebook. “By the end of the day, people were reaching out to me from all over the place thanking me,” he says. “I would log onto Facebook and would be inundated with messages from people in the community telling me their story.”

For Robbins, that immediate response was empowering and lent a new purpose to his life as he became a virtual viral video star: he used his blog as a resource,to combat stigma, create a community and illustrate how to take control over what once was considered a death sentence. To date, that first video has garnered nearly 137,000 views (while his Facebook page has 14,000 likes and over 13,500 follows).

“I wanted to encourage people that were newly diagnosed to imagine on that day when you get the worst news you have ever heard, you had somebody to tell you it’s going to be okay,” Robbins offers. “I never intended to become an activist. I simply just couldn’t find anybody that resembled me or who I connected with that understood what I was going through.”

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His blog, which can be found at imstilljosh.com, provides videos and a toolkit of top HIV apps, HIV-related services and HIV/AIDS awareness products to help those living with HIV lead their best lives. At the heart of his endeavor is a desire to show others confronted with HIV and AIDS that they are not alone —  and that such digital resources as social media platforms and blogs can help people establish connections. “It’s so powerful to just open up about your life and share your story,” he says. “It lessens the stress over living with the condition.”

Still, Robbins cautions that with greater awareness comes with accountability. “It’s a huge responsibility once you start talking about living openly with a condition,” he says. “People start asking questions; so you’d better know your facts!”

Robbins also learned that engaging on social media can harvest bittersweet results, with people using their anonymity as a shield when posting ill-informed and hurtful comments. “On YouTube I got the worst comments in the world, vile comments,” he concedes. “On Facebook, I get to see who people are, who they really are, and on Twitter people can be anonymous, but are really supportive of the message.”

In the years since going public about his status, Robbins has been profiled by various media outlets, led a Ted Talk, and recently developed a partnership with Dating Positives (“a place for people who are positive about being positive”) to help take the stigma out of  poz dating.

“It’s about meeting likeminded people in that same supportive, safe and secure environment,” Robbins believes. “And it’s fun to get back a dating life now and see and meet people from all over the country.” (At this writing, he’s still single; so don’t miss your chance, guys!)

Pondering his journey over the last six years, Robbins says not a day goes by without discussing HIV with someone. And while he occasionally debates whether he chose the right name for his blog,  he ultimately feels it does reflect his persona. “At the time, the message was simple: I wanted people to understand that I am still the exact same person they knew, and they are still the exact same people to me.” He puts it simply: “You be you, and I’ll be me, and I’m still Josh.”  

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Last modified: January 23, 2019

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