This is my sixth World AIDS Day since I discovered my HIV status. It was on this day, for Niccolo Cosme’s HIV awareness exhibit, six years ago, that I went on television and admitted to my condition. Six years and counting. I’m still alive and I’m stronger than ever.
This year, Niccolo Cosme continues what has become an annual (online) exhibit, inviting personalities and celebrities to be a part of his social media campaign to raise awareness on HIV and AIDS. This year, the theme is #endAIDS and that’s my photo on the right.
You can check out the gallery at The Red Whistle and all the other photos he has done throughout the years since the project began.
Later, I’ll be speaking at an event hosted by the US Embassy in the Philippines in Miriam College with other notable people who work so hard in the fight against HIV and AIDS and the stigma that comes with it. I’ll be in very good company.
On the day of Niccolo Cosme’s shoot, he asked all the participants to have a word written on us in red and I chose the word “acceptance.” I thought it was a word that not only meant something to people living with HIV but it also relates closely to the people who aren’t living with HIV.
As People Living with HIV (PLHIV), we need acceptance because it is how we move on and how we begin to better our lives. We have to accept what has happened to us, forgive ourselves, and move on. Acceptance allows us to grow and to become real people LIVING with HIV. The “living” part is the important part and many people I’ve met along the way have made the HIV part of People Living with HIV the most important aspect of that nomenclature.
For those who are HIV non-reactive, acceptance is important because they have to accept that they are still vulnerable and they may still get it in the future, so they must always remain vigilant. At the same time, they have to be more accepting of People Living with HIV. There is too much stigma and hatred and discrimination and it has to stop. It goes far beyond just HIV but it overlaps into LGBT issues and harkens to ultra-conservative views that no longer should hold sway in our contemporary world.
We cannot defend freedom of choice, of speech, of religion and not protect someone’s right to live their lives the way they want to — be it gay or lesbian, transgender, or whether they choose to have premarital sex or not. We cannot say we defend everyone’s freedom but choose what aspects of freedom is allowed. We are either completely free or not at all.
Six years and counting. This is my sixth World AIDS Day and, considering my medical history, I’ve had AIDS. I have been in that terrible condition twice and in both times, I survived. I’m healthy again. I’m back to just being HIV positive and I intend to stay that way.
We can end AIDS and the spread of HIV. We just have to really care about ourselves and each other. We just have to be informed and educated, and that doesn’t just mean reading up on the frequently asked questions. It means, when we are faced with a decision that can put us in danger, we apply what we know and we don’t give in to our whims and desires. I’m not telling people not to have sex. I’m saying if you’re going to, be responsible about it. Wear a fucking condom, for goodness sake! It’s not just about protecting yourself, it’s protecting other people and the people you will sleep with in the future.
And to conclude, here’s a little video by Niccolo Cosme’s The Red Whistle called The Hardest Guessing Game to illustrate an important point.