It has been nine years since I have been diagnosed with HIV. I cannot believe how fast the time flew right on by. It was nine years ago when I got the news that I thought at the time would change my life completely in a negative way. Little did I know that my diagnosis would bring such a positive change to my life and well-being.
It was right before my twenty-first birthday when I got the news that really put my life into perspective. After my diagnosis, I started volunteering at a local HIV/AIDS organization and my love and passion for the work really flourished. I quickly knew that I wanted to change career paths and dove headfirst into the field.
Using my HIV diagnosis to help others
Whenever I think about the anniversary of my diagnosis I always think about where I would be if I did not receive that news. Would I be happy with my life? To be completely transparent, I was a supervisor at a retail store when I found out and was not happy with how my career path was looking. Would I still be there unhappy?
Fast forward nine years later and I have held several positions within the field of public health all working towards ending the HIV epidemic. My journey in this field has been as a Health Educator, Prevention Training Specialist, Outreach Coordinator, Program Supervisor, and now a Senior Program Manager.
I continue to use my positive diagnosis to elevate myself in the community and show people that they can face the stigma. I want to continue to use my writing to not only express my thoughts and feelings but also a way to connect more with my community through my words and lived experiences.
Breaking barriers and HIV stigma
I hope that those that are currently living with HIV like me, can see their anniversary each year as a triumph that they have had. I want them to see it as an accomplishment of facing the world and living their authentic self.
I have gone through so many things these last nine years. I have had both highs and lows as well as wins and losses. There have been times when I have cried due to laughter and joy but also times when I have just cried. I do not know if life gets easier each year, but what I do know is that we each get stronger with each year.
I did not know that my path in life would lead me to advocacy work but what I did know was that I wanted a career. A career where I made a difference in my community and where I could be someone that my community trusted, respected, and admired.
My journey is not yet over. Believe me when I say that this is just the beginning. My future endeavors include more public speaking at conferences across the globe.
I would love to be able to not only write these types of articles but to speak to groups of people about living with HIV as well as create safer spaces for LGBTQ+ communities of color and those living with HIV.
Have you ever been unhoused or insecurely housed?