I am ready to show my face for many reasons! After the cycles that we go through with HIV/AIDS ... the denial, realizing I was not dying after all ... came the shame and hiding. I also started with the lies ... that I believe came from my mother trying to protect me, saying tell everyone I have something else (another illness like lupus etc etc)! Well after so much hiding, lying, the SHAME! Something really deep happened before 2011 came. My partner's sister passed away from cancer and this was so terrible :(. I thought to myself, and asked myself, WHY can't I say I have HIV?? Why is it that anyone can say they have cancer or diabetes or any other health condition and I am so scared to disclose openly without having that fear?
It then, with a combination of other things, made me feel it is time to show my face to take the stigma away! We are not criminals ... I have seen from a baby to an 80 year old lady that are living with the virus! It can happen to anyone ... it takes only one time of having unprotected sex for you to be exposed! I am tired of feeling like I am a fugitive, a delinquent, a person in constant fear of people that I don't want to know finding out about my status.
I know the stigma has to do with lack of education, fear of the unknown and because HIV is linked to sex ... and this is taboo. But we are all sexual beings, and as I said, it only takes ONE time of unprotected sex to be exposed! Along with the other ways we know about contracting the disease.
Another of the things that has me very disturbed is the way people, especially young people, that have minimized this illness to NOTHING! They just think, "oh, if I get infected I just take some pill and I will live a long life." NO, it is not that simple! This is a hard disease! I know we as positive people have to show strength, but at the same time, we have to be realistic ... this illness or condition is no joke.
HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence anymore but it is a LIFE SENTENCE! You get no breaks ... unless you have the mutation that does not allow HIV to damage your immune system. So NO! It's not that simple ... please get tested, protect yourself and little by little try to educate those around you.
Another thing that has me very sad because of this way of thinking, is that HIV is being forgotten ... although there are many people fighting. We need to have that passion that the people before us had! That Spirit of Passion! We have the responsibility to educate those who are not educated on this matter and help those who just started this journey!
I know that some may think "well, it took her 20 years to get to this point" ... and this is true. Although I have been talking in public schools, educational classes in UM Jackson Memorial Hospital here in Miami, as a volunteer in the Red Cross ... I always played it safe! but not anymore :)
This is how I feel ... If I get discriminated by anyone because I chose to come out to the whole world and show my face out there, it is their loss! That includes some in my own family or friends that don't know! Because I am not a CRIMINAL!
Love and light as always -Maria-