Yesterday as we celebrated World AIDS Day, I reflected a little bit on my own journey of having HIV living with me. I have been HIV positive for 5 years. I have been undetectable since I began treatment and have been fortunate enough to be healthy and thriving. I know very well how lucky I am to have been diagnosed when I was. To be diagnosed when there is so much knowledge about HIV, when treatment is proven to work and guarantees us a longer healthier life, and when now we know that U=U and and we cannot transmit the virus to those we care about. I'm very lucky.
I always think about those who came before me and had this virus living with them when there were no answers available and people were being lost left and right. I have met and worked with long term survivors and I am always blown away by their strength and their hearts. We can only imagine what they must have experienced for years and not just in terms of the virus itself but the stigma, fear, and panic that went along with it. On this day, it is them who should be celebrated and forever remembered.
It also makes me contemplate my own insecurities and fears around being fully open about my status. I have worked in the field and have had no problems disclosing my status with clients and those I've worked with. Being a peer intern at The Alliance for Positive Change was an amazing experience for me as it was the one place I had felt comfortable with myself and my status. It was a place where I felt seen and loved. I was given the opportunity to inform and help others who are HIV positive and really be of service to them and that made me feel like this is my purpose; to use this seemingly negative experience and make something good come out of it for myself and others.
Outside of that though, only some family members and a handful of friends know about my status. The first time I disclosed was scary as hell but with each time it got easier and easier. I felt a weight lifted each time I was able to speak my truth. There are a few reasons why I go back and forth with just coming out with my status to everyone. It can be scary not knowing how others will react or say. Sometimes I think it's more of just not wanting to deal with the chatter of those who are not informed. I don't feel ashamed of myself for being HIV positive, I'm actually pretty proud of myself and how far I've come with all I've experienced in life. If you google my name one of the first things that comes up is my blog here at The Well Project and I'm ok with that.
I strive one day to be as brave as so many I've met over the years and just be completely open about my status so I can really do the work and advocacy I would like to be a part of. Once more I want to remember those we have lost over the years and those who are still here and fighting and thriving. We see you.