It’s hard to work out where the last six months have gone, paradoxically it feels as though it was New Year just yesterday, whilst at the same time many, many moons ago. The year so far has been super busy and lucky for me there have been plenty of “ups” and not so many “downs”, so less of a rollercoaster ride and more of a rocket blast into space.
I’m struggling to find out how I had to time to do so much in just half a year, completing my face to face peer support training with GHT, finishing one Coursera course and starting another, receiving my THT HIV & AIDS Awareness Programme certificate and of course creating the film for and speaking at THT’s Friends Dinner last month. All this whilst working, socialising and not forgetting – turning 30 back in April.
I’ve always been goal orientated, give me a deadline and I can work to it, set me a target and I’ll meet it, break it, smash it. But there are times when I need some motivation and when it comes to anything HIV-related I usually don’t need to look too far to get some. Just watching the recent video of Janne Antin is enough to remind anyone that despite how far we have come in the fight against HIV there is still a lot of work to do. People living with HIV still suffer from the stigma associated with the virus, not just from strangers, but in some cases friends, work colleagues or their employers and in some cases even their families. Even self-stigmatisation within the HIV community is still rife today.
But it’s important not to forget the positives, in Janne’s video many people weren’t bothered by HIV, touching his hand or embracing him, times are changing. But Janne has described how he was initially scared to do the video – and this isn’t something that should be ignored.
No one deserves to fear a reaction from someone else purely because of an illness, disease or virus they have acquired – no matter how they came to develop it. And it’s the need for fundamental change to the way people behave around those who live with illnesses like HIV that drives me, pushes me and gives me focus. The mere fact that people like myself were or still are afraid to confide in others isn’t acceptable, we shouldn’t have to make a choice to ask for help or support.
So that’s why I try to learn more about the virus, to study about sexual health rights around the globe, to support those in my community, and to speak to those who will listen, and strive to talk to those who won’t.
I won’t give up fighting stigma and ignorance, yes because I am stubborn as a mule, but also because it is the right thing to do.
“I am living with HIV and I have a voice, and it’s only by using this voice that I am able to challenge AND change people’s attitudes and perceptions of HIV. But we need more voices, the HIV community lacks visibility and this must change.
You can’t treat stigma with a pill.”