Last Saturday I had the chance to attend another of THT’s Activism and Involvement workshops, lucky for me this one was hosted at George House Trust in Manchester. It was a great day and I still surprise myself how I can still learn new things after all this time living with HIV.
It was attending the same themed workshop in Birmingham 2012 that led me to deciding I definitely wanted to be open about my status – hearing and seeing positive speakers talking about visibility and living with HIV without any shame. It was great that this time round I wasn’t just given the opportunity to take part in the discussions and dialogue, I facilitated a session talking about “Personal Activism” and my journey into HIV activism.
As I explained in my session personal activism is something I am really passionate about as it is so important to put a human face on this condition. We can talk about horrifying statistics, disastrous numbers and tragic figures all we like – but they’re largely forgotten about in the long run as they’re not made personal, or relatable to anyone reading them. People who live openly with HIV give the virus visibility, they connect the stats to real people, they allow the public to realise this could be a friend or family member, it could be their son or daughter, brother or sister, father or mother living with HIV. Speaking openly about living with HIV also helps to show the diverse impact it has on people: not everyone living with HIV undergoes the same experiences, personal activism helps to provide prominence of the good and the bad.
I was really happy to be able to have given something back to THT by presenting at the workshop and I’m equally pleased to say I am also going to be an Online Peer Support Volunteer for them on the myHIV site. I’m really excited about the training next month and I’m already shadowing existing volunteers along with the other new recruits and can’t wait to officially start!
I’m really happy to have grown in confidence since deciding to ‘come out’ a year and a half ago. And since the beginning of my personal activism journey I feel I’m now at the point where I can help others not just from afar but face to face, becoming directly involved in helping other people who were once like me. It feels like I’ve come full circle and I really hope along the way I’ve inspired others to talk openly about living with the virus. I still believe visibility is the key to ending the stigma and prejudice we face: it’s not just about being open to everyone, the more people who even just tell one friend or family member the better. These disclosures ripple out and reach more people – meaning the public are more likely to understand what life with HIV is like in the 21st Century.