We have provided a closing statement but let’s not make this about us, today this is about our friend Paul Livesey. This is his message and this is his voice, his way. If you have the ability to listen to audio in your current social settings right now I highly encourage you to listen to Paul’s statement because we can only transcribe audio in to text. We simply cannot transcribe the way somebody is feeling…
On the 14th of September 2016 this was the second time that everything changed. My life had been turned upside down and I felt like the world had ended, this was the day I was diagnosed HIV-positive. From that moment on, I thought my life was over. It’s been nearly 6 months down the line and I’m just starting to get my head around it. It’s only through a small group of close friends and family that have managed to get me through to where I am today. For those who don’t know until now, I do apologise but this isn’t about you it’s about me being tired of hiding who I am from fear of judgment and discrimination, but I no longer fear this so much as I have recently learned that some people are going to judge you no matter what it is that you do.
Another reason for me doing this – I’ve been researching HIV and what it means and upon continued research I discovered something quite amazing… There are people out there in this world who are fighting the stigma surrounding HIV and the discrimination that can also occur when living with HIV. Some of these amazing people are HIV negative and are still out there fighting for me, for us to be treated as equals to live a life stigma free. These people have been a voice for those who have been too afraid to have a voice of their own, up until recently I have been one of these people.
It’s been a struggle being these last few months being back and forth to the hospital for blood being taken, for injection, for this, that and the other, I felt like a bloody pin cushion! I finally started my medication in December, but then came the side effects that absolutely kicked my arse! But despite all of that, I’m still here, I’m alive and for the first time in a long time I feel like I can be strong again – strong enough to fight and take on whatever comes next. I’d forgot how to be strong for a short while until I remembered where I came from and where I was born from – Paul has stated this is in reference to his mother that sadly passed away in 2008
I don’t want to feel like I have to hide anymore, I want to be like these incredibly brave and amazing people who continue to fight for us on a daily basis, for us to live happy, normal lives filled with love. I don’t wish to watch from the sidelines whilst I’m hiding in the shadows.
Some people have questions, some may not, one of the most common questions I’ve noticed that comes quite early on was ‘who did you sleep with?’, ‘who gave you HIV?’ In my case I have an idea, but I’ve come to realise recently, that it’s really not of any importance to me anymore. At that particular time in my life, I went to bed with somebody I wanted to go to bed with, someone I felt comfortable with and had a connection with and I needed some comfort at that time. I don’t regret it – nor am I ashamed of it, the thing that changed is the morning after, I would’ve woke up an HIV positive guy.
I have had another question ‘don’t you just take a pill for that these days?’ in some cases yeah, that’s true, in my case, I take two pills every night, but it’s not just pills – for me, it’s a constant reminder that there’s something wrong with me. People have asked… ‘do you worry about your future dating life?’ Yeah of course I do. I don’t know what the future holds with regards to my love life, but by educating people on what it means to be HIV Undetectable/Uninfectious and discarding certain myths surrounding HIV that maybe there will be hope for me and others like me that believe they will struggle to find love in the future – and you never know the more people who become educated could come to learn how to love one of us.
The more we can open up and talk honest and openly as possible about HIV, the more normalised it will hopefully become which is a step closer to eradicating HIV stigma completely.
Earlier I said two things, one was false, one was true…
I said I felt like the world had ended, that’s not true, the world didn’t end. The second thing was I said I felt like my life was over and that’s kinda true. I did die that day, but became reborn, reborn with a new purpose in life – to stand, to fight, to change the mindset of people who would put me and others like me in this category of being diseased and harmful to others when actually, we’ve all been through quite enough.
My HIV doesn’t define who I am, nor should yours, your strength and courage does. So people out there, whether you’re newly diagnosed or not, if you’re feeling alone or feel like you have to be alone – stand up because you don’t have to be alone.
You are not alone – I wasn’t
Here at DESTIGMATIZE we feel as though people shouldn’t have to be regarded as brave in order to ‘come out’ as HIV-positive, we imagine a world where people living with HIV can be treated as equally as those living with more acceptable conditions such as diabetes, unfortunately, this world does not yet exist, so for this reason, today, we are applauding Paul for his bravery.
We are not about ‘pushing people’ to disclose their status, we feel this should be done your way and only your way. This is Paul’s way and what an empowering, amazing message this is! Not only to people already living with HIV and the newly diagnosed, but to ALL of us. We’re here to help you fight stigma so that you have the opportunity to disclose your status without fear, this has always been our goal. Paul also had the best intentions behind his disclosure today too, he simply wants to reach out to those who are also newly diagnosed and offer them a helping hand.
Thank you for inspiring us Paul, you will never be alone and we will always stand by you.
On a side note; #UequalsU Undetectable = Uninfectious is an on-going strong campaign originating from the US-based Prevention Access Campaign. I will be contacting founder, Bruce Richman to make him aware of Paul’s story.
Paul will also be joining me at the AXM Foundation’s ‘Pitch To Enrich 3’ event this Friday at 9pm held in AXM Manchester. If you’re attending the event you can RSVP here
If you’re newly diagnosed please feel free to contact me in confidence firstname.lastname@example.org – In November last year, Paul contacted me via a social media site and we had several conversations about his diagnosis and I wanted to be there for him.
This was before I launched DESTIGMATIZE and to witness him grow in to this brave and incredible individual (as brave as he already was, disclosed or undisclosed), this time, let US be there for YOU.
HIV-negative and people living with HIV, united as one, battling HIV stigma.