Disclosing at home

Contributor: Alice Welbourn

After the Nairobi 2007 Call to Action was launched, I decided to raise awareness about HIV in my community. I hadn’t done this before because, like many HIV-positive activists, I find it hardest to disclose my HIV status in my own neighbourhood. There are over 20,000 positive women in the UK – but only around 20 of us ever speak out in public. Often we are protecting our children from stigma at school and elderly relatives from pain and worry over us, or we are fearful that we may lose a job. Sometimes we fear gossip and finger-pointing. Ironically, one of the greatest ways of encouraging people to become aware of how HIV might one day affect their own lives is lost when we remain secret, invisible and silent in our own communities.

So 2008 was going to be the year I took courage to challenge stereotypes by going public in my local town, Exeter, a thriving university city.

I tried to speak out at a film evening for students, but not one student turned up. But, I haven’t given up. The conveners of the film evening, also disappointed by the no-show, have resolved to try again – maybe to find ways of introducing the talks and films into the students’ curricula.

I am so lucky. I have a wonderful husband and daughter, both HIV-negative, who stand beside me and support my work and loving friends who are always there for me. But I still often find living positively a struggle—although I have none of the immense challenges with relationships and loss that so many positive women have.

I hope the Call to Action has urged people to find out what is happening in their community. Please reach out to any positive women around you who are trying, against so many odds, to make a difference to policy, practice and chronic funding crises. Call me an idealist, but I do believe that by standing together we, as women hand in hand, can change the world.

Source: Common Concern July 2008