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Being Thankful for a Blessing in Disguise

November 22, 2016

With November comes Thanksgiving Day. It's the time of year that we gather for a big meal of turkey and all the trimmings and reflect on another year of blessings, giving thanks for all the people, things and enjoyments of life.

As you are reading about someone living with HIV/AIDS, you may be saying to yourself, how can that be a blessing, and how on earth can he be thankful. Being infected is not itself a blessing, nor is it something I am thankful for -- in the sense of being happy I am infected. However, had it not been for HIV, I, like most who are not infected, would likely not be as thankful or feel as blessed to have a life and a purpose that touches others.

On my more than twenty-five-year journey with HIV/AIDS, I have had much to be thankful for. I have been blessed with continued life; even with all the side-effects of the disease and meds I take, I know I am blessed to still be here after I was given such a grim prognosis. I am blessed with a GREAT doctor and health care team, who help me manage my overall health. I am thankful to have a family support system and those who love and care for me traveling along on this HIV/AIDS journey.

I have said that, in many ways, having HIV has been a blessing. It has allowed me to use my own personal story to inspire and encourage others who, like me, have been living with the virus for a number of years or those who are newly diagnosed and trying to find their way. I offer my experiences to help guide many, or just to be a sounding board, a shoulder to cry on, someone to vent to when it seems there's no one else to turn to.

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When I was diagnosed so many years ago, what I would have given to have had someone like myself to turn to, who had been there and knew how I was feeling, who could help me gain control of what felt like a hopeless and helpless situation. The blessing of HIV allowed my life path to cross eventually with those of others; it gave me the courage to step front and center and allow my misfortune to make me an educator and an awareness advocate, putting a spotlight on the face of HIV/AIDS in small, rural communities. It was said by my late friend, Debbie, who lived with HIV/AIDS for about 13 years before she passed in 2005, that HIV was here to teach us how to love -- to love ourselves and others.

Saying I'm thankful for my illness doesn't mean I wanted to become infected, nor do I wish it on anyone. Rather, since I did become infected, I'm thankful that it gave me strength I never knew I had. I am thankful that it gave me a voice, my own voice, and one for all those who wish to be recognized and heard but for reasons of stigma cannot do what I do.

Personally, I am thankful to have had a dad who loved me and to still have my mother, siblings and other family members who, along with a network of friends, have been a support system. I can count on all of them when it comes to push and shove. I am thankful that my family, who still live in the small town where I grew up, did not turn their backs on me when they learned I was infected with HIV. We became known as the family who had a member with HIV/AIDS, and when I went public with my positive status, they went public with me, in that they had to face whatever backlash there might be. Unfortunately, It usually takes some kind of major illness or event for us to realize how good we have things, in that we often take our health, our families and our lives overall for granted.

As Thanksgiving Day arrives and passes this year, be thankful for life, even if it seems you are struggling to make sense of it. Be thankful for all the blessings bestowed on you, especially if you are healthy. And, if you are not infected with HIV, try to put yourself in the shoes of those of us who are. Try to imagine the things we go through on a daily basis as we try to stick to our drug regimens. All we are hoping for is continued health so that we might live out a normal life span. Give thanks for the doctors and scientists who work hard every day to develop new treatments and continue the efforts to find a cure and/or vaccine. To those of you who support and love those of us who are living with the virus, thank you for sticking with us. And, for those of you who choose to ignore the whole AIDS epidemic and the education/awareness efforts, no matter what part of our world you live in, know that I am thankful to be able to reach out and teach about intolerance, injustice, stigma and discrimination.

Hopefully, whether infected or not, we will some day be able to say that we were blessed to have been a part of a movement to rid our world of an epidemic that took far too many lives and, in the process, we became better and more thankful people because of it.

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Positive and Beyond: A Rural Perspective


Harold R. 'Scottie' Scott

Harold R. "Scottie" Scott

Harold R. "Scottie" Scott grew up on the family farm in rural Jackson County, Tennessee, which has a population of less than 10,000. On October 24, 1991, he learned he was infected with HIV via a phone call while at work. This set into motion a personal journey, which would include a very public announcement that he was living with HIV while a featured speaker at a 1994 World AIDS Day program. He has since gone on to volunteer in various capacities, representing the rural person's voice on HIV/AIDS and the issues that are sometimes unique to rural versus urban life. Among other roles, he is a speaker/educator who lives openly with his status while serving as a resource for the newly diagnosed in rural Tennessee. He currently resides some 30 miles east of Nashville, Tennessee.

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