Everyone’s journey with HIV is different. I want to use mine to make a difference to society’s perception of HIV by living well and leading by example.
Banners and campaigns have a valuable place, and so does quiet conversation.
Today, through one of these quiet conversations, I changed someone’s pre conceptions about HIV. These normalizing chats have been a personal mission of mine for a little while now, and each encounter I have, I feel a little stronger, more resilient and happier for taking the risk.
A smart, lovely, well educated straight man with gay friends was blown away when I told him I was HIV positive – potentially more so because I was thrashing him on the squash court (yes I know, what is this 1978? But back to the story… )
Until today, HIV simply wasn’t on his radar. As a result, he had no idea about the changes in treatments or the fact that a positive diagnosis no longer means death. He was kinda dumbfounded.
He asked me questions I gave him some answers and when he left court, he was A: happily more informed; and, B: a new ally to our cause. Breaking down stigma and encouraging resilience amongst people living with HIV.
I’m sharing this to hopefully demonstrate that every disclosure doesn’t end in drama or rejection, and while boldness and placards have their place, we don’t always have to march in rallies and get emotional. Often it’s a simple conversation and showing the world / the person you’re speaking to, that regardless of your status, you’re still you. You can live well, have strengths and failings like anyone else and HIV is not going to bring you down.
We can educate the people we encounter, fight to end stigma and grow our personal resilience one conversation at a time.