"The oldest and strongest emtion of mankind is fear and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."
After reading Maria's blog, a flood of memories came to my mind. I remember coming home from visiting my husband in the hospital. I lived like a zombie then, not knowing what to do, what to expect, I didn't know anything, and I was afraid. Afraid for myself and for my children. I had thought I was hungry but when I sat down to eat, before I had a chance to put the fork in my mouth I picked up the whole plate of pasta and threw it at the wall! And then I screamed. I was afraid and now I was angry.
That was over 20 years ago. In a short period of time my whole life had changed. I had no idea what to expect for the future; the unknown! I had few people I trusted at the time therefore no one to talk to. That made my fears grow even more.
I don't feel that way anymore, but I know what it's like to be judged. I must have done something wrong to deserve this, right?
I spent some time in the hospital last spring. A fine woman, who was dying of cancer, asked me in the most and courteous manner, why I was in the hospital? I told her I had HIV. She shook her head in sympathy but she said: I don't judge you. If I had told her I had cancer, would she have said: I don't judge you?
When it was time to leave the hospital, I had to find an assisted-living facility as my energy is failing. The social worker and I found the perfect place. We sat down and talked with the director of the facility and I blithly told her I had had HIV for 25 years. The smile fell off her face, and by the next day I received word that I had been rejected. After all, the director said, she had to think of her other residents. I don't know what she thought I was going to do to her residents, but it was shocking to find that degree of ignorance in 2010. This was a private facility, so we had no recourse to anyone. The director made the final judgement.
Then, more judgement came my way, just this past week. I write poetry for a number of websites. I submitted a poem for a contest that was called: HERE COMES THE JUDGE. The poem I submitted was titled: HIV IS A JUDGEMENT. We are invited to comment on each others' work, and one fine young woman wrote an appreciation of my poem and offered to pray for me, which I always appreciate. But then, she went on to speak about the INNOCENTS, like health care workers and such. When I wrote back, I asked why she didn't think I was a health care worker and that like cancer, HIV was a disease. Diseases aren't innocent or guilty. How can people with HIV be innocent or guilty?
It's little wonder that women with HIV in their lives remain quiet and isolated if opening their mouths means being judged. People judge what they don't know; people are afraid of the unknown. It's a powerful event to show our faces, to teach people that someone with HIV looks just like themselves.