My Opinion Matters

I have learned over the last few years that the more open I am about being HIV-positive, the more honest and genuine I need to be with my community.

I was reminded about this a few days ago when I spoke to a crowd. I was asked to be a panelist for a Latinx Leadership Workshop that was put on this past weekend. The panelists for the workshop were hand-selected by the individual who created this workshop.

All panelists chosen identified as Latino or Latinx and people living with HIV. The panel discussion was about our leadership within our community and how being HIV-positive plays a role in our advocacy. I quickly said I would participate and share my opinion because workshops like these are much needed in our community.

Why my perspective is important

We spoke in front of about fifteen individuals for the panel discussion. All of these individuals work for smaller non-profit organizations outside of Los Angeles County. Many of these individuals oversee or implement HIV prevention programs within their communities.

Their organizations do not have as much funding or resources as we in Los Angeles County do. After completion of the 2-day workshop, each attendee is given grant money to use to implement an activity at their organization. The activities include things like game nights, karaoke nights, mixers, or support groups.

The reason behind them asking us to speak to them is to give them insight on how to speak to individuals living with HIV. This money that they are receiving will increase visibility within their communities and one thing that they asked to get out of the workshop was more information on how someone navigates being HIV-positive.

They knew that once given this grant money they wanted to create status-neutral spaces in which people who were positive felt comfortable sharing with those that were negative. All the attendees felt the need to speak to individuals living with HIV so they would have a better understanding of how to go about conversations or individuals disclosing to them.

Using my voice

The attendees asked me a few questions: how do I navigate dating and opening up to my family about my status?

I expressed to them that dating was hard at first but if they are able to offer a safe environment without fear and stigma in their organization then it can definitely benefit newly diagnosed HIV-positive clients.

I expressed to them that I was very fortunate to tell my family early on in my diagnosis but not every client will be like that. I let the attendees know that sometimes they may be the only person to that they disclosed their status and that they need to show support and follow up with their clients.

The last question they asked me was if I had to give someone an HIV-positive test result, then what piece of advice would I offer to them. My answer to that question and last statement was: as confident as you were prior to your diagnosis, continue that confidence beyond your diagnosis.

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