In addition to my work on TheBody.com, I work full time at TPAN (Test Positive Aware Network). We are Chicago's oldest peer-led organization providing support to Chicago's most vulnerable populations. One of our newest programs, HOTTER (Healthy Outcomes Through Treatment, Empowerment and Recovery) provides mental health/substance abuse support for African American MSM ages 18 to 29, a population that has been, and continues to be disproportionately affected by HIV, mental health, and substance abuse issues.
How do you feel about being HIV positive? Do you feel good? Bad? Scared? Maybe you don't care ... for me, HIV is there. It's something I think about a lot, but I'm not scared of it. Not like I used to be. I used to be afraid of dying. I used to be afraid of people finding out I was positive. I used to be afraid I would pass it to someone else.
I've learned a lot about HIV since being diagnosed with AIDS in 2002. In those nearly 10 years I've learned a lot about how this disease affects people. Positive people are ashamed of it, and negative people are scared of it. People continue to put themselves at risk, regardless of the consequences. We know that when taken properly, HIV medications can offer a long life expectancy to many who are infected. It would seem that the public still thinks it is a death sentence. In many parts of the world, it is.
Every December 1st, since 1988, has marked the day when the world unites in solidarity against HIV/AIDS. I started the 2011 World AIDS Day by speaking to 145 students at the British School of Chicago.
We're a few short days from Thanksgiving and I've got so much to be thankful for. Delicious food in my fridge, ready to be cooked and shared with the people I love the most. A strong, healthy body, which includes an undetectable viral load and over 700 T-Cells (up from 123 at diagnosis). Gainfully employed, with insurance to pay for the medications that keep me healthy. Most importantly though, I remember when times weren't so great. That knowledge offers me a sense of gratitude that lasts the whole year through.
I've been absent from the blogging scene for awhile now. Three months ago my excuse was that I was busy with work. Now that work has slowed down I don't really have an excuse. I suppose it's fear. I know that my blog is called Positive Indeed, but sometimes I just don't feel so positive. The fact of the matter is that while I am grateful for the things in my life, I am currently in a position where I am not getting something that I want. This thing that I want, also happens to be something that I think I deserve.
I know I have been absent from the blogging scene. I'll be honest, I have had a bit of a writer's block, so to speak. I am in awe of bloggers who are able to post so often! That being said, I do want to share a very timely blog piece with you. There is an annual event that is called "A Day With HIV in America" and if you're reading this, I'd like you to take part. The premise is simple. We are all affected by HIV, whether we are negative or positive. On Wednesday, September 21, grab your camera or smartphone and take a picture of you and your everyday life.
Self-preservation: The protection of oneself from harm or death, esp. regarded as a basic instinct in human beings and animals.
We've come a long way living with this disease. This year marks 30 years since HIV/AIDs began its bold and rapid descent upon the human race. Could we have ever imagined that this disease would change the course of human history the way that it has? Could we have imagined so many people would fall prey to it?
For the past three years I have taken part in an annual event called the Ride for AIDS Chicago. Ride for AIDS Chicago is a two-day, 200-mile charity cycling event that goes from Chicago, Illinois, to Elkhorne, Wisconsin.