Thank You From An HIV+ Woman
I have always wanted to publicly thank all of you who have worked so hard to represent HIV positive women, but I could never put my name to it. Finally, I realized that I could write an anonymous thank you letter. Even though I am not part of "the movement". I think of all of you and our collaborative goals for women with HIV/AIDS.
To all those volunteers who endure the battle fields fighting for HIV+ women, a sincere and grateful "thank you". Thank you for the education, support groups, the hot-line, newsletters, vocalizations, protection, alliance, and love. Thank you for your empathy and non-judgmental freedom, allowing me to choose my own path. Thank you for giving me support and letting me stay hidden within our society.
It has been 5 1/2 years since I first ran to a Woman Alive support group in a panic. You gave me strength to emotionally survive my first year with this virus. It was a year filled with blatant job discrimination, rejection, and vicious threats to take away my most cherished assets; my children. This was the year that I retreated into the closet, and since then, I hardly ever come out.
I'm a registered nurse in an Intensive Care Unit. My present job of 3 1/2 years is in a new facility where management has not been notified of my health status. I feel "normal" again and my self-esteem has returned. I am afraid that if I notify my job that I am HIV positive, they will repeat the harsh discrimination endured at the last facility. It is quite possible that my health insurance, life insurance and employment would be in jeopardy.
I've returned to school and have almost completed a BSN degree. If the school found out about my HIV positive status, I guarantee that I'd be kicked out of the program as fast as they could find me.
Comfort in the Closet
Staying in the closet, I am not worried that my three HIV negative children will be ridiculed or alienated because of my health status. As a family, we have chosen to only tell certain close family members, a few friends, our minister, counselors, and various strangers in protected safe havens provided by our support network at Women Alive.
There are also certain disadvantages associated with hiding out within the constraints of the non-positive population. Advocacy and activism for all HIV positive women, by an HIV positive woman, cannot emerge, (in my case). I feel as if I have an invisible gag around my mouth. I pray that one day I can feel safe enough to be able to cut it off. However, as long as I have three children to financially and emotionally support and nurture, I feel that I must keep my HIV status publicly silent. In the meantime, I will continue to support all women with HIV/AIDS from a professional and outsider status.
Fighting From Within
I am fighting from the inside of the closet and I admire and respect all those women who are strong enough to fight in the open. Thank you all for your voices of advocacy on behalf of myself and all affected women with this non-discriminate virus. Thank you for publishing "Women Alive", it is my main source of connection with others.
Women Alive continues to provide support, a sense of community, and a powerful voice for women with HIV/AIDS.
This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.