I had the honor of presenting on one of my favorite topics, HIV and Breast/Chestfeeding, at this year's HIV Is Not a Crime Conference. As you may or may not know, I had the privilege of breastfeeding both of my babies for 14 months, each as a woman living with HIV. They are both HIV-negative, healthy kiddos. Any opportunity I get to speak on this topic is an honor for me and each time, I find myself inspired by the attendees of the presentation.
In this particular presentation, I was completely moved by an attendee sharing her story and her tears with the presenters and others in the room. She stood, her hands shook, but her voice never faltered. She then continued to share experiences from her life that would have the power to break most human beings. She was surrounded by light as she was speaking and you could feel the community in the room hold her with the most loving care. It's always amazing what this HIV community can offer to one another.
Then I began thinking how incredibly blessed I am to be able to share space with community members at conferences like this one and be held by others who just "get it". I often feel a disconnect when sharing my experiences of living with HIV to others who can't understand. It isn't their fault, it's just the nature of the conversation and our positions in the world. My HIV status does not make me worth any less, but it makes me different. My community understands me when I speak and does not question. There is no judgment. That's why the need to continue convening people living with HIV is so crucial, we need those safe spaces. Spaces like HIV Is Not a Crime. We need each other. We always will. I always will.