World AIDS Day 2010
It’s World AIDS Day 2010 today, another year has gone past, those of us living with HIV are still here – and still the stigma is being broken by some of us that are courageous enough to tell our friends, our family, and other people that we are here, living with HIV.
That’s right – telling others. So, today, I’m ‘coming out’ publicly on this blog as to who I am. Complete with photo.
Unsurprisingly given my job and other interests, I was at a political conference a few weeks ago. I was talking to a friend, who was also in attendance. He was asking what I was doing with my life, I told him that I was still working for my boss two days a week. He asked what I did the rest of the time.
“I help out down at The HIV Support Centre in Belfast. I’m a Trustee there.”
“Is there much need of that, here?”
“Well, going on last year’s figures, there are about two people diagnosed in Belfast each week.”
“Do you know anyone living with HIV?”
“No, I don’t.”
I stretched out my hand, he shook it, and I said,
“Hello, my name’s Michael, and I am living with HIV – you do now.”
My friend was rather stumped for words. But he then asked about how I was coping, and he said that I looked really well, and that I was coping well.
Well, of course, to the outside world, we can all look well – especially when dressed in a suit and tie. Underneath that suit and tie, and underneath the mask of the cheery face, is someone who is still coming to terms with the diagnosis, the need to take medicines daily, and who is learning to slow down as he cannot go as quickly as in the past.
living with stigma: a reality
Not to mention the stigma of living with HIV in Northern Ireland. I am one of the lucky ones. I can tell my friends and family, together with total strangers – but many people living with HIV feel that they cannot.
This is why last year our local HIV-specific charity, The HIV Support Centre took part in the People living with HIV Stigma Index survey. Today, there is an event on at The HIV Support Centre looking at the results of last year’s survey and looking to see what we can do as a society to help those living with HIV.
What you can do today
If you can do nothing else today, find a red ribbon, and put it on. If you can’t do that – do it virtually.