The Importance of Being Social
The women of Being Alive have organized 2 wonderful socials for HIV+ women. The ambiance is pleasant, the food; excellent, the atmosphere; cozy, the company; friendly. I give the socials 2 thumbs up. The women who attended had a delightful time, as many expressed as they were leaving the first social, then they returned for the second one. It makes me wonder! Where are the rest of the women? Having volunteered at many HIV related events in the community, and attended "Friends for Life" parties and support groups for the last few years, I know there are many more HIV+ women in Los Angeles who have not attended the socials. Why is that? Do women not want to unite and form a community of HIV+ women? Are they afraid of recognition by association? Are they afraid to invite HIV more into their lives? Is it easier to live with it by pretending it isn't there most of the time? Perhaps, but don't you know what you're missing in the process?
After my fiancé died 3 years ago many of my friends abandoned me. Not necessarily out of fear or contempt, but mainly because most of them "didn't know what to say". My HIV+ friends knew what to say. Even though many had not been through the same exact experience, they could relate to my suffering and lent me the unconditional shoulder to lean on. Through my relationships with HIV+ people I learned how to live with what had happened. It is more common to find a young widow or widower in the HIV community than anywhere else. As time passed, my grieving became less and my friendships with these women grew. Today, some of my closest friends are the ones who I have met since that turning point. I met them at support groups, socials, conferences etc... and the one thing we all have in common is our HIV status. That one common denominator can keep the bond strong. We occasionally discuss the fact that we have little else in common yet I don't know where I would be without them. We developed more things to share. They helped me through my first bout with PCP, and I helped them through taking their first anti-viral, or dating crisis. And, more often than not, we enjoyed movies and dining out together and talking on the phone about any subject. These are the friends I can rely on - they will always be there for me, and me for them because we understand. It always irks me to hear people say, "AIDS is the best thing that ever happened to me." I always feel like replying with, "AIDS is a potentially terminal disease - Get real!" But I can honestly say, through AIDS I have met some of the best friends a person can ever want.
We are almost a race of our own. Women are among the fastest growing population of newly diagnosed HIV cases. Last year's conference on Women and HIV will attest to that. The organizers expect this year's conference will be even larger. Events such as conferences and socials provide a place where women who have been living with the virus longer can offer information and suggestions to those newly diagnosed or can learn more about their symptoms and treatments. We can help each other and have a good time doing it.
There is so much we have to learn from each other and enjoy in each other's company. Take the time and attend the next social. Try it, you may like it. The women's social is the first Sunday of every month.
This article is dedicated in no particular order to my friends: Linda, Mary, Nancy, Suzanne, Jackie, Dina, Ann, & Jayne (RIP my sweet).
The Third Annual Los Angeles Women and HIV Conference is open to the public and will be held this year on Saturday, November 13, at the Hyatt Regency at 711 S. Hope in downtown Los Angeles from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm.
This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.