There is no single mold from which the inspiring HIV-positive people who won an HIV Leadership Award from The Body are cast. They are gay and straight and transgendered. They are members of every race and ethnicity. They are men and women. They are young and old. But what makes them inspiring?
Maybe it's their ability to change people's lives. Cuban-born Carlos Perez, who now lives in Chicago, reaches out by writing first-person accounts of his life. After he penned an article about his own experiences with HIV and crystal methamphetamine, he was contacted by five men who, after reading his story, decided to enter drug treatment programs.
Maybe it's the sheer guts it takes to tell the world you have HIV, particularly when stigma and discrimination continue to flourish in these great United States. Chris Poorman, a transgendered woman over 50, says, "The best thing about sharing my story is the opportunity to educate the public. The worst thing is when it all just falls on deaf ears because people are so dedicated to the 'it can't happen to me' attitude."
Maybe it's their unshakable desire to improve the lives of others with HIV. Troy Duke is an active-duty Navy officer in Virginia, who offers confidential peer counseling to other officers who have just learned they're HIV positive. "It's vital to be there for the newly diagnosed," he says.
What all 10 of these winners have in common, though, is their humanity. They show that anyone can have HIV: Your mother or father. Your sister or brother. Your coworker. Your boss. Your friend. Your lover. And what these winners share -- as do all the other inspiring HIV-positive people who live, fight and thrive each day -- is a conviction that whatever challenges life brings, they will not be ashamed, they will not be cowed and they will never be silent.