HIV awareness month means visibility, recognition, celebration, remembrance, and above all a chance to empower individuals living with HIV to be able to live fulfilling lives. Although it’s only a month, and the struggle continues year-round, it is still a time for people to be brought awareness and education as in hopes of ending stigma.
Looking back at what HIV was versus what it is now it feels like night and day. And before there were only glimpses of treatment options and hopes for a cure. And today’s age, we have come so far in terms of being able to provide treatment options for individuals living with HIV to be able to virally suppress the HIV virus therefore essentially eliminating the possibility of transmission. Not only are there treatment options for people living with HIV, but there are preventative measures that help provide reassurance in hopes of eliminating this pandemic for good. Although there are still many advancements that need to be made, there is the possibility that in our lifetime we may be able to see a cure and a life free of HIV.
Future goals are definitely surrounding more support for people living with HIV and who are dealing with mental health issues. There are supportive services that are in place, however, more is needed due to the steady rate of new HIV diagnoses. Another goal would be around improving the relationship between patients and providers so that patients feel more empowered educated and in control of their care versus stigmatized judged because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, and especially their HIV diagnosis.
Something I would love for people to know about HIV is that this virus is 100% preventable and treatable. Regardless if someone is living with HIV or HIV negative, please listen to the advice of someone who’s been living with HIV for 13+ years and didn’t have so many options as we do today; The only way to know your status is by getting a test, getting into care whether that test was negative or positive, and become empowered to be one’s own true, authentic self.
Next Step has been crucial in the fight against HIV through a number of ways; through the education of providers and key stakeholder the owners, through the community building for young people living with HIV, for visibility of individuals living with chronic illnesses including HIV, and lastly for being able to provide spaces for arts and music to give ease of mind to the participants will take part in it. Next step has allowed me to be part of the lives of hundreds of young people living with HIV who are looking for space where HIV doesn’t define them they define their HIV.
Thank you for reading!