Hello dear readers I am back! Well I know there is very few of you, but it still feels good that everyday somebody seems to arrive here. Sorry for the long silence. I had the fortune of being on holiday in Alicudi, a very small island North of Palermo. Alicudi is a place out of time. Until not long ago there was no electricity. And still no cars, or clubs, or crowds. Alicudi is an inactive volcano, a big black rock in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, where the main form of transport is still the donkey, and of course it has very limited internet connection. Even sending a text message is difficult. That’s why I haven’t been updating my blog. I was also hoping that in such a context I could have a little break from HIV, if not in my body, at least in my head. But can I?
Memories have been coming back to me. Memories of two Sicilian women I have met and supported through my work at Positively Women. I reflected sadly that those two daughters of Sicily are among the very few people that I have witnessed dying of AIDS related causes in the UK. Their stories give a good picture of the levels of stigma in this beautiful land of mine.
P was an intelligent and indomitable woman. I first met her at the drug and alcohol support group that PW used to run a few years ago. I remember her telling the story of how she first beat her addiction and then, with her partner and two children drove a Panda from Catania to London to start a new life.
But it couldn’t be… In spite of the fact that medications was available, and she was in London getting great medical care, her body kept having adverse reactions to all the drugs she was put on. She also had Hepatitis C and her liver slowly gave up. One morning I went to visit her in hospital with a big bunch of flowers and the nurse told me she had passed away two days earlier.
I had to get in contact with the family back in Sicily and the Italian Embassy to arrange the funeral. This is where the shocking part of the story begins. The family didn’t want to know. They asked what the cheapest way to bury her was. In the end through the Embassy and the Hospital, we arranged to have her cremated and to send the ashes to Italy. At her funeral there was only two of us PW workers. Not even her children, who had been returned to their grand parents in Sicily when P health had deteriorated, were allowed to come and say good by to their mum. I knew her family was quite well off, so it wasn’t a lack of money that was stopping them. But P had also told me how the fact that she had been a junky and on top of this also HIV+ made her mother and father disown her. As an Italian, knowing how close are our families, and how important ceremonies like funerals are, especially in the South, I was shocked and numbed by the awful reality that nobody had come to the funeral of this young woman, because she died of something unmentionable: AIDS.
The Anglican priest who officiated the service asked if I wanted to sprinkle some blessed water on the coffin, and so I did, while tears streamed on my chicks. This was the saddest funeral I ever went to.