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.
ACT UP, FIGHT BACK, FIGHT AIDS!
Aaron M. Laxton- AIDS Activist
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