A few months ago, I lost a really close friend, or at least a person who I thought was my friend. All behind a conversation this person was having in front of me with one of their other friends in regards to HIV and STIs. My EX friend told me that no matter how hard someone tries to flip having HIV or an STI into a positive, it will never be seen as a positive. This person's exact words were who tf wants to have HIV or an STD, and then they proceeded to say EWWW. They also said that if they had an STD, they would not be going around telling people about it smh.
And people wonder why people are afraid to share their STATUS.
Mind you, this person has known me for 10+ years, and still proceeded to pretty much SHIT on everything that I stand for and everything that I am, as if knowing me for all these years hasn't changed this person's perspective not one little bit. This took me back to everything I went through in high school, and throughout my early college years in regards to the STIGMA surrounded by HIV.
Now I cannot really speak on what it is like to have any of the other STIs, I can only share my experience on what it's like to live with HIV.
So because I have HIV society wants me to feel ashamed? I was born into this world; these problems were here long before I came.
STUPID is different from IGNORANT. Ignorance is when you lack the information needed to be fully aware. Stupidity is knowing the TRUTH and seeing the TRUTH, but still believing in the lies. And to me the STIGMA is just plain stupid. For so long, I was hesitant about whom I shared my status with, because I had been through situations where I had opened up and shared with people who turned around and spread my business, or attempted to use my status against me. For a long time I didn't talk about how I felt, because I didn’t know how to express what I was going through. I just let people gossip about their versions of my reality and talk about their perceptions on my experience. A lot of the time people would just be talking just to talk, because it gave them something interesting to talk about aside from their own boring or messed up realities.
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." MLK Jr.
What I have come to realize is that by remaining silent, I was unconsciously allowing that stigma to perpetuate. Now that I have embarked on this advocacy journey, it never fails, every time I get up and share my story I am extremely nervous, and my anxiety starts to kick in. I think it's because I am experiencing PTSD from all of the stuff that I went through growing up, and remembering all the things people said about me. But then as I continue to push through that fear, I experience this sort of liberating sensation, because I get to portray my experience in the way that I want to, and I get to change the rhetoric.
"I came to the conclusion that there is an existential moment in your life when you must decide to speak for yourself; nobody can speak for you." MLK Jr.
Language has the power to create reality, and with that being said language has the power to change reality. We change the way we do things, by changing the way we view things, and changing the way we speak about things. Contrary to what people believe about my experience it has always been my normality. And maybe my opinion is biased, but for me it hasn't been nearly as bad as people perceive it to be. To KNOW me is to LOVE me, and the beauty in that lies in the fact that my whole being dispels the STIGMA. I believe that is my calling. I believe God created me specifically for that purpose, to change people's perspective on what it means to live with HIV. And so I challenge STIGMA by staring at it dead in the face… And by saying I am SHE. I challenge STIGMA by loving those who don't understand what it is like living with HIV.
When I speak out and when I share my story of LIVING with HIV, I don't share it in order for people to be like, oh man having HIV is a good thing and it's ok to have it. I share my story to show how I have been THRIVING with HIV, and how I turned a negative situation into a positive one. I wouldn't expect anyone to want to contract HIV/AIDS, or any other STI for that matter. I have an infection in my blood, and not on my genital area. And there is no negative connotation behind that statement; I'm saying it to say I don't want to contract any other STIs either. And if I had the opportunity to change my status, I probably would. I didn't ask for this, and I do not believe anyone does. However, if it does occur, there are steps that you can take afterwards to rectify the situation. As far as HIV goes there are steps you can take beforehand also to prevent the situation. Everything will be ok, if do what you need to do in order to get in care and get started on HIV medication. It is not the end of the world! I have been blessed with 32 years of living, and still counting. Despite the circumstances, I really can't complain because it could always be worse. I have been blessed to be able to grow up and be exposed to going to camp every year as a child; a camp for kids 6 through 16, who were battling all different kinds of life threatening or disabling conditions. Everyone is out here struggling with something, and there is no such thing as a life that is better than yours. Again, my opinion might be biased, but I would honestly choose this life over many others. I'm as healthy as I could be considering the circumstances, my virus is not detected, my T Cell count is continuing to rise, my vagina still works good lol haha =P.
I am a Beautiful Black Queen Living with HIV. I have accepted that as a part of who I am. I am now comfortable walking in my TRUTH, and fulfilling my mission. This is my element, and my motto is: if I have to live with this shit I’m gonna make it look SEXY.
As for my EX friend, I had to cut them off after that. As I have had to with a lot of people over the years. My true friends, family, allies, and loved ones wouldn't continue to perpetuate the stigma if they really cared for me. They would stand up for the cause, and educate people on what they have learned from my experience. Love and Light!
"In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends." MLK Jr.