HIV-Positive Blogger Aims to Inspire and Spread Hope
September 25, 2009
Shawn Decker was just 11 when he was diagnosed with HIV and told he had two years to live. But on Oct. 3, Decker, now 34, will receive the Whitman-Walker Clinic's Courage Award at the opening ceremonies of the 23rd annual AIDS Walk Washington.
Decker has hemophilia and acquired HIV during a treatment for the condition. "I missed the last month of sixth grade because the school kicked me out because they were afraid I would infect other kids," said Decker, who grew up in Waynesboro, Va. His parents waged a successful fight to get Decker back into school, but for many years he closely guarded his secret.
After graduating from high school, Decker in 1996 was inspired by the story of Ryan White's courageous fight against AIDS and decided to disclose his HIV status. He began blogging extensively about his life. "I wanted people to see that somebody with the disease could be someone you like," he said. "For me, meeting the AIDS community and talking online completely changed my life."
In 2004, Decker married Gwenn Barringer, an AIDS activist and educator he had met in 1998. The couple speaks at various events about their relationship and how they safeguard Barringer from the virus. They chronicle their lives on a Web site, www.shawnandgwenn.com, and Decker is a columnist for POZ magazine. In 2006, he published his memoir, "My Pet Virus: The True Story of a Rebel Without a Cure."
"It's an important message to get across that even if you have this disease, there's still hope for a long and happy life," said Chip Lewis of Whitman-Walker.
For information on AIDS Walk Washington, visit www.aidswalkwashington.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=299353.
09.24.2009; Yamiche Alcindor
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.