So yesterday was the day everyone decided to talk smack about an illness and a condition they mostly have no idea of, and about how to prevent its transmission so it is limited to those who already have it and does not come in contact with their loved ones.
The thing with me is, any public fora to discuss HIV and AIDS I take very personally- for obvious reasons. And yesterday was no exception. In this case however, I did not really see ignorance at play, what I sensed was a form of stigmatization and blame. Maybe it was just me, but that was how I felt.
The truth is this: there are many journeys that people can walk with you on, but the journey that is driven by HIV is one that you must walk alone. Alone. Even when your family rallies around you, even when your friends listen and support you, you will have to do it mostly by yourself. At least I have had to. That is why all the messages around HIV center around how not to be careless enough to get it , how to ensure you do not spread it, how to keep it at bay. While this may be somewhat helpful to people who still have a lot to learn about the disease it does not do much to encourage those who already have it to be more open about it. The general message is ‘DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN TO STAY AWAY FROM ANYTHING RELATED TO HIV’ , and that definitely includes those who have the virus. I wept terribly yesterday when I read the different tweets, saw the campaigns and all the propaganda that was being spread. I felt more and more lonely and hopeless. I remembered that the clinic, where I had been receiving treatment for the virus in LUTH, burnt down (yes, it did), and I felt so alone. Because how do I tell all these people who are saying things like ‘ a little wisdom can save you a lifetime of heartache’ and ‘HIV can change your life for the worst’ that I already have the virus.
So on this WORLD AIDS day, while you spread the word and not the virus, I urge you to open your minds to accommodate people to whom the virus was first spread. A WORLD AIDS DAY, where we can show, that there are frightened, happy, brave, beautiful, sad, funny, fat, thing, REGULAR people, living their lives, but with HIV, not because they wanted it so, but because that is how it is, would be a good day.