Today is 16 years I have learnt that I share my life with you. What a shock it was. At the time, it was difficult to imagine I would be alive today. Here we are in 2013 and it looks like we will have many more years together. It is pointless to think what would my life had been without you.I will never know.
I know that thanks to you I had to take a very good look at myself, and the world. I had to look straight in the eyes of death and illness. Thanks to you I stopped taking my life for granted. I had to ask difficult questions to myself. Recognise my fragilities, and my responsibilities. What was most painful: I had to question the possibility of love and intimacy. How difficult closeness becomes, when your body is a potential threat to your loved one. I have experienced fear, rejection and judgment. And I have found limitless compassion and friendship in my new HIV family. Through you I have met people with courage, purpose and humility. I could start a long list here of women and men, gay, straight, young and old, from every continent. You know who you are. Thank you.
Dear HIV, on this day I would like to acknowledge the gifts that came along with the misfortune of having you inside me. Confronting judgment and stigma, I had to learn to free myself. Which is the only way of freeing others, as we are all connected.
HIV you have been a magnifying lens on the important questions about the world we live in. When we think about you we need to think about power. Where there is abundant shared power: you reverse. Where there is scarcity of power: you thrive. It is not a surprise that you still thrive today among those who have less power: women and girls, gay, queer, blacks, people who use drugs, people who are incarcerated, transgender people, indigenous people, poor people. The ironic consequence is that through you, HIV, I have seen a dialogue starting among oppressed and marginalised groups and factions, who would have never spoken to each other otherwise. Together we may begin to see that to truly challenge you we need to question and change the current power structures: economic, social and cultural.
Dear HIV, t oday I want to thank you, because you obliged me to find and recognise my personal power. You made me manifest a strength I didn’t know it was mine. Firstly ,for a long time, I felt weighed down by shame guilt and fear, but had to rise up to it. This was only possible through the inspiration and endless support of my new found HIV family. I am almost sure, without this family I would have lived a much more mediocre and confused life. If I had lived at all.
Finally dear HIV, I can say all those words, because I am still alive. And I am alive because I had the good fortune of being born in a part of the world with free access to medical services, and the medications that keep me alive. Millions of people still don’t .
Thousands die: every day, and today.
The pain for the ones we have lost: never dies.
2011 Speaking at United Nation High Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS, representing the Global Network of People Living with HIV