Tomorrow is the last day of my twenties. And for no reason at all I’m dreading it. It’s not rational, based on any particular facts or even other people’s experiences; logically I know turning 30 is nothing to be worried about, it’s not the end of the World and April 16th 2015 will pass by just in the same way as the day before did and the one before that, and the one before that. But at the moment, I’m still bothered, still trying to ignore it, pretend it can’t be happening.
I’m not grown up enough, I’m not where and who I thought I would be at this age. The fear is irrational, but it doesn’t make it any less real. It makes me think about other types of fear, like those we look down on.
It’s easy to talk about wanting to break down fears associated with HIV. That they shouldn’t exist, that people should realise HIV is nothing to be scared of. But am I being judgemental asking people to discard their fear of a dangerous virus when I’m fretting over a two digit number? Don’t get me wrong there is a difference between being scared, worried, concerned or nervous and just being plane ignorant and I’m talking about the former.
Should we expect people to put aside their worries for the sake of our own feelings? I know HIV is nothing to be afraid of but I was worried about it before I was diagnosed. I largely avoided HIV positive guys even though I thought of myself as accepting and tolerant. I didn’t have an issue with the reason behind their status or think they were bad people, I was scared I could contract the virus, that I could become ill.
It’s easy to see now that even though the fear of contracting HIV came true, from my own experience of living with the virus I actually had nothing to be afraid of. Yes I have to deal with the consequences for the rest of my life, but I am happy, healthy and carrying on as I had planned to, if not better. The same will apply to the big 3-0. Come this Friday I’ll wake up (maybe a little hazy!) and realise that my birthday was just like any other day, albeit with a little more attention than usual, and that being 30 is no different to being 29.
In these examples I have the benefit of personal experience, I have or will live through those concerns and worries. I hope anyone who is afraid of HIV doesn’t have to experience it, so how do we change their minds, how do we help them realise that this virus doesn’t have to be lethal anymore? Explain that we can reduce the chances of transmission and people with the virus can access effective medication?
I think the answer is education, I think it’s standing tall and without shame. Living a normal life with the virus and not letting it defeat you in any way creates a powerful statement. It challenges misconceptions and it confronts stigma and ignorance. If there’s one thing I’m proud of in my twenties it’s trying my best to do and be these things, so I can’t stop now, age is just a number but HIV and the significant impacts living with it are very real.