Aside from the obvious factor of my being a person living with HIV for 17 years there are a number of reasons that have me register, raise funds, promote, and walk the route at the annual Scotiabank AIDS Walk. This is my “Why I Walk” list:
To show my Solidarity with people living with, at risk for or who have had their lives touched by HIV in any way good or bad. I walk with the hope it encourages another to take part in something bigger than the self and require the efforts and energies of everyone in the face of often overwhelming barriers.
To support a Community living with HIV, their family, friends and the people around them who are or may be experiencing the challenges that HIV can bring into their lives. I walk because I am honoured to carry and share the experiences of HIV positive persons who are afraid or are unable to share at this point in their journey with HIV.
To share and encourage Compassion from the community we live, love and grow our families within that does not condemn, shame, pass judgement, devalue or demonise an individual based merely on a medical condition; but instead show love, acceptance and understanding that they are a person and they have value.
To inform the community I live in on the proven Science that has emerged in the 30 years that HIV and AIDS have been known. The reality that we can prevent the transmission of HIV with both medications and effective condom use, that people can live full lives diagnosed with HIV and starting treatment early can prevent the forward transmission of HIV to others. People need to know that there are great new technologies for both treatment and prevention are on the horizon.
To speak out against and inform my community about the overwhelming Stigma that exists for people living with HIV. Stigma that results in the unnecessary criminalisation of HIV non-disclosure, inadequate supports from health, social services, government, housing and employment to name but a few. We know there are populations and groups known to be at higher risk yet every day they are challenged and dismissed as a result of ongoing stigma and discrimination above and beyond an HIV status.
To show my Respect and acknowledge all of the individuals who have for the last 30 years fought for the rights, treatments, laws, access and support for people living with and at risk for HIV. The stories and sacrifices of the many men, women and children who have been lost to AIDS and are no longer able to speak and share with their own voices. Without them and the many still working hard every day, I would not be here writing this blog today.
To inspire and encourage Hope that we can bring HIV to an end. I want to show that we as a community can come together and remove the barriers and obstacles that remain in place even though we have great treatment and technologies to get things moving now.
Lastly, I walk because there was a time in my life when I could not. A time when I could not walk down a flight of stairs, walk my dog or across the room without being utterly exhausted.
I walk because I live in Solidarity with a Community that needs our Compassion and knowledge of the Science and Stigma that exist in order to create a safe place of Respect and understanding. I walk for a community that needs us now more than ever.
HEAT Program Coordinator, HIV Community Link
The Scotiabank AIDS Walk will take place in Calgary on Sunday, September 18, at 11:00 am.
Click here to find out more information and register for the Walk.