Friday, December 28, 2012

My HIV Journey: Day 571- Nausea... Need I say more

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012 Blog: HIV Criminalization

Busting down the Closet.

A closet is a horrible place to live. The fear and feelings associated with the closet are some of the scariest that a person will ever know. Will people reject you? Will your family stop loving you? Am I basically going to be cut off from my family? These are some of the questions that are associated with thoughts about disclosing something very important.

For a gay male who is HIV positive there are two times in which they come out of the closet. First is the disclosure that you are gay. Coming from a religious family I knew what this meant for me. The simple belief that you somehow chose this lifestyle is a belief that is widely held not just by my family but by a portion of society. I have often wondered why someone would choose, willingly, to have this type of rejection and persecution for a life. Even though it was difficult to come out to my family there have been family members who refused to allow hate and bigotry to dictate their own relationships. For that I am truly thankful!

The second discosure is coming out of the HIV closet. For some this disclosure is seemingly easy, while for others it is nearly impossible. The same feelings that I mentioned previously are associated with disclosing your HIV status. Are people going to reject me? Will my friends and family stop talking to me? Are people only going to see me as a diagnosis?

For both of these disclosures, we look at history and that creates a baseline that we use as a point of reference. I think that for me it was easier for my family to learn that I was HIV positive than for them to accept the fact that I am gay. I mean, at least HIV has medications and treatments but gay, well... there certainly are no medications to fix that.

For me when I learned that I was HIV positive I initially did not want anyone to know. That did not last long and before I knew it I had decided to take my story to Youtube at "My HIV Journey" . I made my decision and there was no looking back. The reality is such that when you tell one person that ultimately many others will know, even if they say that they are not going to tell.

So I controlled the disclosure of my HIV status and I did it on my terms. I did not have any expectations of how people would react or respond to it but I was shocked when it was mostly supportive. Even my family reacted in a nurturing manner with love and concern.

Each person has to decide why they are wanting to disclose their status. For me, I knew that I wanted to leave my mark on society and on my community. That meant that I was going to put myself out there 100 percent. Once I did that then people couldn't talk. I had taken all the ammo away from them. What were they going to say, that I was positive? Big deal, I had already told everyone.

Another aspect I find interesting is when people wonder how their closest friends will respond or react. I would say that if you have to question that then it really says a lot about the friendship since HIV shouldn't even factor into the friendship. They should be there for you no matter, right?

Make a statement...

Recently we have seen celebrities such as my friend Jamar Rogers or Olympic Athlete Ji Wallace disclose their HIV status and that is amazing. You can do the same thing and have a huge impact as well. You never know who is watching you and what they are going through. Simply knowing that there is someone aound them that is brave enough to stand up against misconceptions and social injustice could very well save their life. Ultimately thought disclosing your HIV status has to be something that you do for yourself. Remember once you do it there is no going back. Not everyone wants to change the world or be there for other people and that is ok. Being an activist and advocating for social change is not easy and it is not for everyone. I truly believe that it is a calling since it does take dedication and devotion.

Things to do change without people standing up and advocacting for that change. We have seen this proven time and time again throughout history. Change however doesn't not come without sacrifice. I advocate for people to disclose their HIV status in order for society to have the ability to put a face to HIV. We are friends, family members, church members and so on... HIV does not change who we are it simply is an aspect of who we are.

There is a great quote that says "I would rather die on my feet than to live on my knees." That is how I try to live my life. Additionally I would never ask someone else to do what I myself wouldn't or haven't done. I live my life out loud and I hope that others will do the same. My name is Aaron Laxton and I am HIV Positive. Will you stand with me? If so make your statement at the " I AM HIV+" facebook page.

Aaron M. Laxton
AaronLaxton on Twitter
Aaron Laxton on Facebook
My HIV Journey on Youtube
My HIV Journey on Facebook
"I AM HIV+" Facebook

Monday, July 30, 2012

People living with HIV/AID need to let the world know that we are here.

I know what I am about to propose is radical and for that I will not apologize. Today, we find ourselves as people living with HIV/AIDS in a fight. This is a fight that has been raging for over thirty years however in recent years the battle cries have calmed as the cause lost leadership due to aging as well as from death as a result of complications of AIDS. We are in a fight even now as politicians cut funding and programs; we are in a fight as we strive to fight stigma. This is not just might fight and not simply the fight of those that are activist or considered radicals. This is the fight of every person that must hide their HIV status due to the fear of being discriminated against. This is the fight of every person who hides the fact that they are HIV positive from their family and friends due to the fear of rejection. This fight my friend is yours whether or not you ant to accept it not.

As I stood in front of the Washington Monument and the White House during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC I figured something out. People want to share their status and we need to. I need to stop hiding as if we have something to be fearful or shamed of because of a positive HIV status.

In thirty years we have seen many changes in our society. We have seen improvements in medications and increased life expectancy and quality of life and for that I am so thankful. That being said, does not mean that we can give up or stop fighting. We have to continue pushing forward in this battle that we are in. We have to ensure that funding continues to stream into programs that are working on innovative cure research as well as decreasing the costs of desperately needed medications to those who simply have a hard time surviving on a daily basis.

Yes, disclosing your HIV status is not easy and it is a very personal thing to do however we must all fight together. For some the sacrifice might be civil disobedience while for others it might be writing a strongly worded letter to a Senator or Congressman. The point if that we have to stand up and let the world know that we are here. HIV/AIDS is here and this is what it looks like. It looks like a friend, a family member or a coworker. We have never been as close as we are together to a cure and we must continue to push policy makers, corporations and big pharma to increase contributions to this technology.

I know what I am asking people to do and I would not ask anyone to do it if I had not done it myself. On an individual basis we can face negative consequences to disclosing our status however together, if we stand together we can change the world. This is bigger than any one individual person. I am asking that all people disclose their HIV status to their friends, family, coworkers and anyone else that you have not already told. It is only when we let people know that we are here will we fully reengage the conversation about HIV/AIDS. One thing that everyone can do is to simply take a photo with a sign that reads, "I AM HIV+" and post it online at "I AM HIV+" Photo Campaign Facebook.

I would ask you to consider this, is it better to live a life that is honest where you never have to hide who you are and are accepted for who you truly are or to live a lie? I would say that for me I chose a long time ago to never hide who I am. Although this might mean at times that I am discriminated against, beat down or yes even arrested; I choose to stand rather than to live on my knees.

ACT UP, FIGHT BACK, FIGHT AIDS! That is the chant that was being heard throughout the streets of Washington, DC and people had no choice but to hear us. We have improved medications to treat HIV/AIDS because of the sacrifice of activists, protesters and ordinary citizens that refused to simply live in silence. Yes this is a line in the sand and I am asking people to choose where they stand. Some might even say, if you are not with us then you are against us.


Aaron M. Laxton- AIDS Activist
Aaron's Email
My HIV Journey on Youtube
My HIV Journey on Facebook

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Whats the take away the International AIDS Conference?

Activists, Advocates and people from around the world converged on Washington, DC for the International AIDS conference. For those of us living with HIV it was a time to simply feel normal. Taking medication on a schedule, regular conversations regarding struggles with HIV were had and for all of us it was a time to refocus our efforts towards a cure.

With only a few days left of the conference we  all must ask ourselves what is the take away from this conference. Is the conference simply a time for us to travel or is it a time to reaffirm ourselves to fighting to reduce stigma and raise awareness surrounding HIV/AIDS? I would hope that the latter is the take away from this conference and for me it is!

I will forever hold this experience in a special place in my heart and the memories that I have made. Whether it be protesting and marching in front of the White House, special moments with Timothy Brown aka the "Berlin Patient" or living closely with a team of activists from around the world, this has been amazing. Many times this week I have compared this trip to that of civil rights activists who boarded buess and migrated to Washington, DC all in efforts to bring about social change.

I have marched this week; I have walked shoulder-to-shoulder with others who are as passionate about HIV/AIDS as I am and it was exactly what I needed. "ACT UP, FIGHT BACK, FIGHT AIDS" was the chant that could be heard by over thirteen thousand activists and I am proud to say that I was one of them. As I packed my car and made arrangements to come to DC the days prior to the conference I knew that this trip was going to be life changing however I could never have anticipated the utter importance of this trip. I knew that it was something that I had to do at all costs and though there were sacrifices, what I personally am taking away can never adequately be put into words.

Life long friendships were made and had that been the only thing that I achieved it would have been a success. The time that I got to spend with Timothy Brown has been priceless and I am so thankful for that. As I stood in a conference room awaiting the announcement of the Timothy Ray Brown Foundation that will focus on funding research for a cure, I knew that I was witnessing history. As I walked behind Tim as he walked into the conference room behind the line of sight of the media corp and in those moments we had a conversation and shared a hug. It was this interaction that a photographer from Reuters captured and would ultimately be spread across the Associated Press globally.

It was the shared moments that I had during this past week with activists who have fought the fight that I am now engaged in but when the HIV/AIDS movement was in its infancy. We are now thirty years and thirty-million dead globally into the movement now the demands from activists has evolved from treatment to a cure.

What was simply my desire to be who I am would also forever be documented by photographers and television stations around the world. The sign simply read "I am HIV+" and I stood in front of the Washington monuement and the White House with one desire... to let others know that I am here. Additionally I wanted to let others that are living with HIV/AIDS know that they do not have to hide who they are and that there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Protesting the Mayor of DC with Robert was another memory that was very spontaneous but ultimately is the shere definition of who we are. At the core of who we are we are wanting to change the world and the split minute decision to join our brother and sister activists was the right decision.

What can I say? The memories will forever remain in my heart and my mind as some of the best times of my life. It is not by chance that almost every photo of me taken during the conference show a huge grin on my face. Activism for me in not a romantic notion or simply something I do because I am bored, but rather because I know that I can be part of real change, not only within the United States but globally.

Aaron Laxton
My HIV Journey on Youtube
My HIV Journey on Facebook
AaronLaxton on Twitter

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Journey to the International AIDS Conference 2012

Even as I write this I have so many emotions that are running through my body. Words cannot capture how I am feeling however I must try. As I pack my Jetta with luggage and electronic gear there is a sense that where I am headed is truly historic. I have said it many times this past week but I truly feel as if this is what activist and advocate must have felt like during the civil rights movement when they would board buses and make the intensive trip to Washington, DC.

Yes, I will be in a car for almost fifteen hours but at the very core of who I am I know that it is where I belong. I will be meeting up with Cyber-Activist and peers within the HIV/AIDS community that up to now were merely voices and email addresses. As with everything else in my journey with HIV I am going to document this because I know that it is historic and something that I will tell my children, "I was there."

My voice as an activist and advocate might only be heard by a few however in DC it will be united with tens of thousands of other people and together the world will see us. Whether it is marching on the capital or meeting with people in the Global Village there is one commonality, HIV/AIDS. I have made a sign that I am proudly going to carry. It is an AIDS ribbon on one side and on the other side it reads, "I am HIV +".

I friendships that I am going to make over the next week will most likely be like no other friendships. Myself and rest of the HashtagHIV team are going to be tweeting and doing various shows each day. WOW who would have thought that over two decades ago that the access of knowledge at one conference would so easily be able to navigate to the furthest points of the globe.

My hope is that through this conference attention will once again be directed to HIV/AIDS and those that are living with HIV/AIDS. I hope that the world will see that there is still stigma that surrounds HIV/AIDS however we refuse to be silenced and we will be heard! As I make this trip to Washington and I see things such as the AIDS Quilt I do so knowing that the names on the Quilt symbolize a life that was lost to a virus that I have in my body. As I make this trip to the International AIDS Conference I remember that fact that many of my brothers and sisters in the HIV/AIDS community who fought the hardest are no longer with us and it is now my fight!

I am excited. I am excited to share information with activist and dvocate from around the world. Without doubt I am forever going to be changed from this journey that I am on.

Aaron Laxton

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My video to President Obama regarding his plans to not attend the Intern...

Yesterday the world of social media was buzzing with the fact that President Obama would not be attending the International AIDS conference in Washington, DC. What does this say to all of us living with HIV/AIDS? This coupled with the fact that this administration has made the largest reductions in HIV/AIDS funding is very disturbing.

Please, do not give me a speech about how much the President or his administration has support the HIV/AIDS community. The latino population has a right to be angry about this adminstration's unwillingness to address immigration issues and the LGBT community at times has been up-in-arms regarding marriage equality issues. Why then should the HIV/AIDS community not protest and be angry about this symbolization of disrespect towards us?

This is not simply another conference but rather it is the first time in two decades that the International AIDS conference has been on American soil. This has to serve as an alarm for all of us that are not only living with HIV/AIDS but also those that are fighting for the cause. It is time to break out the red bullhorns and to get angry. Who is going to protest with me, who is going to get angry with me? We must let the President and his administration know that this is unacceptable and we will not tolerate this lack of interest and action!

Aaron M. Laxton

Monday, July 16, 2012

What it feels like to get the news that you have HIV.

HIV,AIDS, Aaron Laxton, My HIV Journey

Where have all the HIV/AIDS activists gone?

Where have all the HIV/AIDS activists gone? Yes, I know that society has changed and so has the fight for HIV/AIDS. With the advent of the protease inhibitor and the decrease in death rates related to AIDS is there still a need for rallies, marches and protests? Do we still live in society where we need to carry coffins through the streets and stop traffic in order to make chalk outlines of people to represent those that will die or have already died?

A Generation Removed

One problem that exists today is that the memory of how AIDS ravaged our communities, country and world is quickly becoming just pages in a history book. They are stories that are told during times of rememberance but beyond that they seem to have no place in mainstream society or the fast-paced lives that we live. Yes, we have a quilt but that is not representative of the global devastation that HIV/AIDS has had. I have heard people say that during the time in which AIDS was at its peak that people would simply mark names off in their phone books, here one day and gone another. It makes me wonder what that would be like in todays society with Facebook. One day a person might have 1,000 friends and they slowly dwindle away two or three at a time. Would people even notice?

The more distance that we have between a younger generation and the actual face of HIV/AIDS the more people become less sensitive to the devastation of  HIV and AIDS. Today, there are ribbons for everything but let us never forget that the red ribbon, the AIDS ribbon was the first. Today people simply do not wear the red ribbon anymore; AIDS must no longer be an issue worth fighting for.

With the reduction of stigma has come another trend, the normalization of HIV/AIDS. To some degree it comparable to the relationship between a wild animal and humans. Once the fear of the animal is removed ultimately a human will get bit or worse yet killed. As an HIV positive person I am glad that people are not afraid to drink after me and touch the phone that I have used however we must find a way to stress the extreme importance and education, prevention and outreach. HIV/AIDS is still very much an issue that demands activism and advocacy unfortunately we are slowly seeing less and less.

AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP)

One such reason for us to all rise up, protest and march is that funding is being cut or in jeapordy of being cut for the HIV/AIDS sector. There are several reasons for this that I will leave for another blog. We have to rise up and make those that set policy and budgets hear our voices.

Ryan White funding is up for reauthorization in 2013 and it will not shock most people working within the HIV/AIDS sector if funding is cut partially for this. It might be cut because there is less of a public out-cry or it might be cut because there is a perception that our country simply does not need to allocate that much funding to HIV/AIDS. People need to wake up and reignite this conversation about HIV/AIDS. We must continue the funding and we must continue to educate others in order to prevent HIV.

This past year the United States saw a near crisis as several states had wait-lists for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program known also as ADAP. This crisis was temporarily stopped and the wait list decreased however this cannot and must not be something that we wait to address until the moment of crisis. HIV/AIDS patients must unite and stand together and tell those that have authority that we want a cure now.

I challenge you to join with me in this fight of HIV/AIDS. Where have all the HIV/AIDS activists gone? Unfortunately many of our brothers and sisters have fought the fight and they are no longer with us. It is now our time to stand up and be counted. It is now our time to march and protest and to demand a cure. It has been thirty-years since HIV/AIDS first started to change the face of our society and if we do not fight it could very well be another thirty. We MUST march! We MUST protest! We can no longer sit silently in the back on society and merely taking our cocktails and one-pill-a-day regimens. If we continue to merely survive then we will never thrive.

Aaron M. Laxton

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Has the Fight of HIV/AIDS become simply a profit-margin?

Have we become our own worst enemies in the fight of HIV/AIDS? Without doubt there have been huge advancements within the area of HIV/AIDS through the years, but I feel as if there is currently a disconnect between those that provide services and those in which the services are meant for. I write this blog as a person who is HIV Positive and during the last year has faced drug relapse, homelessness and unemployment. Through all of this however there has been one thing that has been constant; my activism/advocacy of HIV/AIDS. I am not alone with these struggles and unfortunately I am simply another statistic. I am very vocal about my story but there are many others out there that for one reason or another are not as vocal.

Have you ever tried to get a job with an AIDS Service Organization (ASO)? Let me just say that you would have an easier time getting an appointment to have tea with the Queen or a lunch date with the President. Over the past year I have applied repeatedly with AIDS Service Organizations (ASO) all over the United States simply to be dismissed or notified that I was not the best fit for the position. That begs the question, "Who is the best fit for the position other than people living with HIV/AIDS?" As I write this I know that people are going to call me an extremist or tell me that I am possibly jaded  and bitter. I am not jaded or bitter I am simply frustrated as hell that my voice is not being listened to in an effort to shape services provided to those living with HIV/AIDS.

To say that I have been frustrated with AIDS Services Organizations (ASO) lately would be a gross under-statement. Frankly, I am pissed off. Most, if not all, AIDS Service Organizations (ASO) were founded during a time in which our society was trying to make sense of this disease that we now know as AIDS. At that time it was termed as either G.R.I.D. (Gay Resistance Immune Disorder) or a Gay Cancer. Eventually people fought to have the name changed because it simply is not a gay disease. Over the years, family and friends of those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS created organizations and groups to provide services and education for those living with HIV/AIDS. Today however, we have progressed to a very different time in which these service organizations have forgotten that there are a group of activists and advocates that are living with HIV/AIDS;  the very clients in which they serve. We are a group of advocates and activists that for one reason or another simply cannot find work within this field even though we are subject-matter experts.

Yes it pisses me off that I can go into an AIDS Service Organization yet never talk to a single person that is HIV Positive or living with AIDS. The question that I have to ask is "What the fuck to do know about HIV/AIDS"? I am not saying that you must be HIV positive to be an effective advocate or activist however it certainly provides us with a unique knowledge that simply cannot be learned out of a book or through a graduate social work program. Wake up AIDS Service Organizations and realize that you have to engage those that you are suppose to be serving. Allow us to give back and to make a different in our own lives. People that are living with HIV/AIDS do not want to be dependant on programs but rather we want to be involved in every aspect of education, prevention and treatment.

Additionally what benefit is it for the HIV/AIDS movement to have publications and media if they do not represent the very least among us? I mean the ordinary stories of people who are fighting in their own towns yet never get their story told. I suppose that until it is profitable for an HIV/AIDS magazine or website to publish their stories it simply will not happen.

If it were not for YouTube and other social media tools my story would not be out there for the world to hear. Currently over 68,000 people have watched my videos and daily I get messages from around the world, from those living with HIV/AIDS to those that are newly diagnosed and those that are wanting to get involved.

If you are tired of simply being a statistic, stand up with me and tell AIDS Service Organizations and HIV/AIDS media publications that we have a voice. Force them to tell your stories, the real stories and not simply the ones that are profitable or meets a particular agenda.

Aaron M. Laxton

Saturday, July 14, 2012

You have a rash on your what?? My HIV Journey

HIV, AIDS, Aaron Laxton, My HIV Journey, infection, infected, std,sti, poz, positive,,, hivplus

My HIV Journey- It gets better?

HIV, AIDS, Aaron Laxton, My HIV Journey, infection, infected, std,sti, poz, positive,,, hivplus, It Gets Better

Help Me I Have HIV, Now What?

Thursday, July 12, 2012