Today is World AIDS day, a day to bring awareness of the AIDS pandemic and mourn the lost of millions taken by the disease. World AIDS day was conceived by James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, and approved by Jonathan Mann, Director of the Global Programme on AIDS (now known as UNAIDS); and soon created the World AIDS Campaign to focus on year-round communications, prevention and education. Each year, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have released a greeting message for patients and doctors on World AIDS Day and in the US, the White House makers World AIDS Day with the display of a 28-foot AIDS Ribbon on the building’s North Portico. So with that history lesson, you would think this increased presence and awareness would have impacted the stigma and decreased the numbers of newly infected people by leaps and bounds; it has and it hasn’t.
I’m not a researcher or scientist. I am a regular person and yes I am HIV positive. Don’t cry for me Argentina because I am healthy and happy, doing what I’m suppose to do to remain so and not transmit to others. I never was really mad when I found out because I knew what I did to contract HIV, namely unprotected sex. I can’t even say who gave it to me due to the number of times I had unprotected sex and the number of partners. In the end I took my responsibility as it all could have been different if I had engaged in safer sex and thought of myself more than I did (click here for an earlier post).
Over the years I’ve disclosed to various friends and family, usually just as casual as how I disclose my sexuality. I take the big deal out of disclosing because I’m still me and people need to see the stigma is a lie. I also try to educate my younger friends on the behaviors I see them doing that mirrored my road to living with HIV, and sadly most do not heed my warnings. All they see is how I still function as normal, hit the gym, date my usual rate and pretty much live life better than they do. I fear my being “healthy” gives them the wrong impression, and new evidence is springing up everywhere that this is the case for the young gay community. So as medical advances continue to grow, young people see a pill a day as no big deal just to get “seeded” and go “raw”. And really how much of a hypocrite would I be when I chose to do the same, leading me to my current health; well not a hypocrite at all.
Look, I did my dirt and got it in. I even came away with the grand prize and while it doesn’t suck to the point I am depressed all day, it’s not a picnic sweeties. I get the lovely honor of being rejected by men not willing to take a chance no matter how small it is of transmission. I get to put poison in my body everyday, albeit to keep my viral load undetectable, it’s still poison that I must remember everyday chaining me to a bottle. I get to enjoy co-pays, lab fees, waiting rooms, and anxiety three times a year for the rest of my life all because I just had to go bareback, and you really want my life? I just don’t know how to give them the facts that it’s not a death sentence and the fear they need to wrap it up each time but I’m learning and World AIDS day and campaign does a wonderful job continuing to push the message and information out there to save as many people from this reality of mine as they can.
I am not writing for any kind of sympathy. Honestly it pisses me off every time someone apologizes after I disclose; and while I understand most don’t know how to respond when faced with that kind of information, and each person will want something different; if you see me I will accept just okay as if I told you I am a practicing Buddhist. I can’t even say I still don’t get a bit preachy at those that reject me after I disclose, understanding I signed up for this kind of rejection because of my recklessness. All I think about is the knowledge I have, and if they had they same they wouldn’t automatically cast me aside out of fear, but still so many prefer not to educate themselves and just run for the topic. I know people who wont even have HIV positive friends, just to remain oblivious, and even still engage in unprotected sex, believing their partner when they say they are HIV negative.
The truth is we still have a lot of work in terms of education, and until there is a cure we all must do our part. Even after a cure is found, we must remain vigilante because all we need is HIV part two to get this whole ball of wax started again.
So to those fighting the good fight, I thank you. To those we have lost, until we meet again. To those in need of education, it’s coming one way or another, and if you meet me, just say hi.