Contributor: Sophie Dilmitis
I have been living with HIV for 14 years and every time I disclose there is a different reaction. People are stunned, some remain silent and stare in disbelief and some faces automatically show pity. As people living with HIV, every time we speak out, we continue to break the silence surrounding HIV and AIDS and this is important.
Having said this, the reality is that many women living with HIV choose not to disclose. Many times it is not safe, or disclosure could mean facing tiring processes that require special visas to be able to enter a country or even be denied entrance to places. Stigma and discrimination continue to drive this epidemic and we have to make changes on many different levels so human rights are respected and upheld at all costs.
The Nairobi 2007 Call to Action highlights that change of any sort happens first at a personal level and can only take place when we challenge our own ignorance and fears, change how we talk about HIV, and encourage others to do the same. HIV-positive people have to start investing in their own lives, so that they may live healthier, more productive and longer lives. This can only happen if we are supported.
It will take a united effort to overcome this epidemic—a community, country, continent and a globe standing together in commitment and strength. Work must begin on an individual level, by looking at our own lives and assessing what our beliefs are about sexuality, HIV and who is at risk. We can start by acknowledging that even if you are not infected, HIV is very much alive in everyday lives and we are all ‘living’ with it.
Source: Common Concern July 2008