two people give a man puppy dog eyes and frowns faces, as he rolls his eyes because he does not want their pity

I May Need A Lot, But I Don't Need Your Pity

While speaking to a good friend of mine about my life’s struggles and challenges, I made a statement that inspired me to write this: “No matter what I have gone through, the last thing I need is pity.”

Pity, to me, is one of the most insulting things I can experience.

I have been through a lot in my life

I have been through so much in my life, things that make a childhood hard to be considered a childhood.

I spent the first twelve years of my life taking AZT to help control my HIV and daily antibiotics to help fight infections I may encounter. I lost my mother to complications due to AIDS.

Various health complications

I was hospitalized with chickenpox because my immune system wasn’t trusted to fight on its own. I was not allowed to play sports or put myself in a situation where I could get hurt or dirty to safeguard myself from harm (to this day I still can’t swim). My teachers were informed of my status and treated me differently.

I developed a cold-weather allergy (yes, it was ridiculous and fortunately temporary). My virus grew resistant to the AZT and I was diagnosed with AIDS at the age of 12, and my following regimen hospitalized me with an inflamed pancreas. I also had to have oral surgery because I developed 8 supernumerary teeth (they removed 6 and I still have 2). All that before I was even in high school.

What high school was like

I had few issues in high school as far as major health complications. My biggest challenges were related to navigating the social hierarchy with delayed mental and physical development, and the stigma that always comes with HIV.

I spent quite a bit of time explaining HIV to people, well as much as I could with the information I had available. I was generally accepted by my peers, though always a bit of an anomaly.

Navigating different types of relationships

I did manage to find myself drawn into a group of unapologetically misfit-ed social outliers. They helped me find a place that I could belong while I struggled to figure out who I was. I didn’t fully hit puberty until I was almost a senior.

I managed to find a girlfriend around that time which ended after several months due to her family’s disapproval of my status. All the while, I struggled with stigma from my caretakers and myself, thinking that relationships were pointless because I couldn’t have sex and the constant thoughts in my head about what happened to mom and what could possibly happen to me.

These obstacles made me who I am

Things calmed down and later in life. I turned my experience into a career and a passion for helping end stigma. I’ve encountered some obstacles still and I’ve been slighted more than once during my time as an advocate.

The takeaway? Everything I have experienced, everything I have survived, everything I have overcome has made me who I am today. I have rolled with every punch and played every hand I have been dealt. I always get right back up and I never fold. It has all made me mightier than I ever could have been without it all.

People living with HIV don't need your pity

I share this all to bring to light the struggles of those like myself, so you can see why there is still work to be done. I don’t need your pity. As advocates, WE don’t need your pity.

But, we do need your help. Learn from our stories; don’t just feel sad for us. That doesn’t help anyone. Take action. Stand with us, not over us. Help us ALL be the change we need.

Not out of pity, but out of love and respect. Trust me, we’ve earned it.

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