Since my diagnosis in 1997, I had lived with fear. Fear of people knowing I was living with HIV. I had never witnessed anyone being mistreated because of their HIV diagnosis, but I still developed this fear I didn’t know where it came from. That’s how powerful stigma is! Society tells you to hide away in shame and disgrace. What am I ashamed of? I’ve asked myself this question many times. After all, I didn’t get HIV because I did something wrong. I didn’t ask for it, neither did I deserve it.
It’s taken a lot of courage for me to come out and speak about living with HIV. Although I’ve always been open with the professionals that support me, only in the last year or so have I dared to disclose my status to strangers, albeit those interested in HIV care, treatment and prevention.
I am a person who has been angered by injustice around the world, but I’ve always felt like I didn’t have the power to do anything about it. It saddens me that we have been talking about HIV stigma for decades now, but we have still to reach a place where people living with HIV do not feel judged or ostracised. Well, I have decided that I will contribute my bit to the campaign to end HIV stigma by coming out and speaking more openly about my experiences of living with the condition.
This is my contribution to a cause that has been championed by many well-known people including Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex. I was privileged to work with Avert and Shamal on a video, sharing our experiences of being diagnosed with HIV. Just maybe, the voices of people with ‘lived experience’ will resonate more with everyone. Reading other people’s stories helped me to come to terms with my diagnosis, and I hope our video will help others too!