When we train HIV+ women activists for PozFem, the positive women network we often say that to be an effective activist you must follow the rule of the three Ps:
Prepare. Promote. Protect.
I think it was clear from this blog that I was doing a lot of preparing and promoting. Last month I was for the first time in my life on BBC news. Yes, on telly! I was interviewed on the introduction of 60 seconds HIV tests in community settings around London. My response was “It may take 60 seconds to give an HIV test, but it takes much longer to deal with the results if it is positive. I think it is essential that people know their status in order to take good care of their health. However it is also crucial that people who test positive are referred to good psychosocial support, and especially peer support, form others with HIV. Learning to live with this virus is not easy”
Anyway I was not able to see the interview because by the time it was broadcast I was already practicing the third P. ‘Protecting myself’. So I received lots of lovely texts by people who saw it, while lying on a sunny beach.
Protecting means many things. It means not feeling forced to be open about your HIV status if you are not ready, or if you think that it could be damaging to yourself or your loved ones. It means that you do not have to answer all the questions a journalist asks you. It means you have to make sure that you are not isolated, but have a good network that can support you with love and advice. It also means that you need to know when to take a break, and recharge yourself. Therefore I was protecting myself from exhaustion and burnout with a lovely holiday in Cuba., in which I could indulge my love for salsa dancing and rum.
I feel ready now to put my head down and focus on ‘Preparing’ and ‘Promoting’ again. The International AIDS Conference in Vienna is just around the corner, and I hope I will be able to blog about it…Actually I promised several people I will. …Anyway, I have already planned more ‘Protecting’ afterwards…