I usually end Manchester Pride dancing my ass off in Cruz, waking on the Tuesday morning in a drunk stupor wondering what the time is and how the hell I’m going to function in work the next day. This year I decide to go to the George House Trust HIV Candlelit Vigil instead.
I’ve only been to the vigil once before, a few years before my diagnosis, at the time I didn’t really understand or empathise with what was going on, I was disillusioned with the idea of a HIV vigil at a lgbt pride event: we’re constantly sending out a message that HIV isn’t a gay disease, was the vigil not just reinforcing that misconception? So I never went back, even after my diagnosis I actively distanced myself from the event each Monday night during Pride, dragging friends and my boyfriend to bars instead.
This year I changed my mind. I don’t exactly know why but I guess I just decided to get over myself, my stubbornness, and stand proud with my HIV community. We’re small enough as it is, and we need to support each other.
I’m waiting the results from a third liver function test I’ve undergone in the past few weeks, there was a (potential) blip when I had my routine tests in July and the retest came back high as well. I’m pretty sure I will be ok but it’s these moments, waiting, that I get scared.
A million ‘what ifs’ run through my mind and I end up stressing myself out. For someone who cares about supporting other people it’s hard to admit that sometimes I need support myself.
The vigil was a reminder that I’m not alone, and that that support exists, that I already have it from my friends and family, and that people across Manchester are willing to stand and fight HIV alongside those living with the virus, and remembering those we have lost.
It was also a reminder of how lucky I am to be living with HIV in the UK, with access to the medication that is keeping me alive, that I can speak openly about my experience without fear of retribution, that I’m protected by law and that I have an amazing boyfriend who loves me and is always there for me.
I lit my candle for each and every person living with the virus, because you are all amazing, brave and strong. And you have a voice, and I beg you to use it. As long as we continue to hide the virus is winning and we can’t fight stigma with statistics. We need to show the world we are people, human beings, we love and we are loved. And there was so much love at the vigil last night.
I hope the liver test is a blip.
I hope going to this year’s vigil isn’t.