The Importance of Community
HIV. Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The first word is the most important to remember: we are human. We are social creatures at our core and have a need to connect and belong.
There is one thing I had taken for granted before COVID-19: the ability to meet face-to-face with my peers. Conferences like Positive Living here in Florida, peer support groups, or even small gatherings to enjoy each others’ company are all things I am finding harder and harder to live without.
The power of online communities
Thankfully, we have online communities that are incredible and very much something necessary for people living with HIV. We are able to connect with our fellow advocates and peers across the country, even across the globe. I will always be grateful to be a part of these expansive networks.
The more I become involved, the more I find comfort and strength as an advocate. This, by proxy, makes living with HIV easier for me. I would not have accomplished nearly as much as I have if I did not have our community to support me.
The impact on my HIV journey
The wealth of information and experiences that we have to share is useful for anyone living with HIV. I have found myself being a part of multiple Facebook pages for people living with HIV and other digital networks on other platforms. I even found a group for people born with HIV like myself! That discovery alone has made me feel much less alone in my specialized situation.
Providing and receiving support from peers
Communities bring visibility, and that is something that people living with HIV are in dire need of. We see each other, we have a space we can be open about our status. Too many feel forced to live within the shadows of stigma. Online communities provide a place to find others that can help support us in our journeys.
Hopefully, once COVID-19 is no longer threatening us, we can go back to meeting in larger groups. I have gone to the Positive Living Conference here in Florida for several years in a row. This year it was sadly, but necessarily, pushed back to early 2021. There is nothing like being able to see friends you haven’t seen in person in a year, possibly longer.
Connecting with others
Even more important is the ability to connect and network with others. My journey as an advocate truly began after meeting other advocates at this conference many years ago. I would not have known as much as I know, have as much passion as I have, or have all the skills I have to be an advocate if it were not for the HIV community. Even if you are not comfortable being an advocate, you can gain so much more understanding about your status.
There is so much to learn
Greater still is the knowledge and understanding that those working in HIV who aren’t living with it can gain. There are so many that work to help us who don’t know what it’s like to live with HIV. These resources can help them better serve their clients by helping them meet clients where they are at.
As we work to end HIV, we need to remember we are all human. We need community, connection, togetherness. We need each other to learn and grow. And through that, we can bring an end to HIV. If not for ourselves, then for future generations.
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