Commentary & Opinion
Pennsylvania: Enjoying Disclosure's Freedom
April 10, 2012
"I had always been a carefree, happy, spiritual, and truthful person. But after I got HIV from my boyfriend 11 years ago, I stopped feeling like myself. I was doing well physically, my CD-4 count was above 1,100 (and rising), and my viral load was undetectable.
"But my emotional load was at 0, and I felt spiritually sick. I had spent 10 years watching what I said and hiding my medications, doctor's appointments, HIV magazines, and anything else that might raise suspicion from family and friends.
" ... I was a prisoner of my own fear and shame, and after 10 years I decided that enough was enough. I had done nothing to be ashamed of, and the contribution I could make to ending this epidemic was more important than the guilt I felt. ...
"On National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in 2011, I publicly disclosed my HIV status in the Philadelphia Daily News newspaper. ... I received all kinds of responses: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some people were shocked because I was older, a teacher, mother, wife, upstanding member of my community -- and HIV-positive. ... I didn't fit the ill-perceived stereotype of someone who contracts HIV. But the shock factor worked, because many family members and friends asked me to go with them to get tested.
"That day of my public disclosure was also the day I broke free. A heavy load lifted off my spirit, and 10 years of numbness, shame, guilt, and fear seemed to just melt away. It doesn't matter anymore what people say or think about me. What matters most to me is that I feel good about myself, and I'm standing in my personal truth.
"I realize that disclosure may not be best for every HIV-positive person; it's a personal choice, but a necessary one for me. I feel free and light, as if I can finally spread my wings and soar. Yes, I believe I can fly; I believe I can touch the sky."
The author, a retired teacher, is writing her memoir.
Westside Gazette (Fort Lauderdale)
03.08.2012; Nancy Asha Molock
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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