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Rise up to HIV

A social media campaign — RiseUpToHIV — invited PLHIV from all over the world to post positive video messages on Facebook so as to encourage, educate and empower people newly diagnosed. Here are transcripted snippets of some of the contributions. 


This is an incredibly exciting time to be living with HIV because we know now that we have treatment that not only protects our health and enables us to live long and healthy lives, but it also protects our partners from getting HIV. We cannot transmit HIV when we’re undetectable. So the message is, if you’re considering treatment or if you’re on treatment, please understand that if you take your meds and stay undetectable you won’t transmit HIV and you’ll stay un-infectious. We can have sex and intimacy, and babies with our partners without fear and without shame and without stigma.


I was 21 when I was given my HIV diagnosis. At the beginning I felt so low. I felt I had no confidence. I felt I was dirty, unclean — polluted. I also allowed others to think that of me. After a few months of living with HIV I told myself that I’m not a bad person so why am I allowing these thoughts and why am I allowing others to think that about me? So what I did was I created a new normal. I went back to being the fun, carefree, confident Robbie who now has this amazing life perspective thanks to HIV. I will never ever allow myself to be treated or seen as less. Because I’m not. No one with HIV is. 


Positive. What does it mean to me? It means amazing. Passionate. Powerful. Loving. Kind. A smile. Laughter. Joy. A mother. A father. A son. A daughter. A person. A person who has faith. A person who is only human. Who breathes, just like everyone else.  A person like you. Let’s take out ‘HIV’ from HIV-positive. You are beautiful and perfect in every single way. You are positive.


I’ve been poz for 23 years. So I’m a long-term survivor and I’m kind of proud of that. And I’m proud of all the long-term survivors out there. I want to lift my hat off to you. I also want to lift my hat off to people who have joined us along the way and offer encouragement, support and love. We are part of a community. We are here for each other, we’re here to support each other and to learn from each other — and I kind of like that.  It’s an opportunity that comes with HIV and I’ve grabbed it. And I hope you will too: to enjoy being part of a community that can offer you so much and for you to offer so much. Be well. Enjoy your life. Enjoy the HIV community — it’s quite wonderful. 


Regardless of your diagnosis, it doesn’t change who you are. It doesn’t make you worse or less of a person. If anything, I learned that HIV made me strong — I didn’t realise how strong I was.  And you know what? I’m OK. Don’t let a diagnosis determine your life. I’m living proof that, regardless, you can still live fabulously — and be you. Don’t let anybody tear you down.  


HIV — unlike any other condition — all the flak that we get really comes from a moralistic place where people can blame it on you for being a slut or put you in a box and make you feel shitty about yourself. It took me a long time to work through these feelings of inadequacy; these feelings that I was never going to be loved and to realise that that sort of stigma and bullshit is totally unacceptable and actually has no bearing as to who you are as a person. I, like you, and every other HIV-positive person is as strong, wonderful, phenomenal, powerful, interesting, sexy and amazing as they have always been — and HIV doesn’t change that at all. 


This year will mark ten years that HIV has been living with me. As you noticed, I didn’t say I was living with it. These three letters changed my life and I refuse to allow it to hold me down. I refuse to allow it to depress me or hold me captive. I refuse to let it hold me in bondage. I choose to be strong, I choose to be courageous. My positive message to you is to stand up and stand out. Make a difference by giving back, make a difference by serving; make a difference by taking care of yourself. You can do whatever you put your mind to as long as you just try. 


In 2013 I was diagnosed HIV which for me, to be honest, was an inconvenience and an annoyance more than anything.  I knew HIV wasn’t a death sentence anymore and that people living with it can live a long, healthy life. I came to the conclusion that I could let three letters rule my life or I would rule it. So I began a not-for-profit organisation that provides peer support for people in rural areas. For me, that was my way of taking back power and doing something for myself. Going through [the HIV diagnosis] has given me the confidence in life to do things that I never, ever thought I would. Far from being the end, being diagnosed HIV was the beginning. Life means more now than it ever did. 


I was diagnosed HIV in March 1990, three months shy of my 21st birthday. When I went to see my doctor he gave me five years to live. I gave up all my dreams and hopes — and the will to live. But, fortunately, here I am 26 years later. I’m very healthy. So my message to you guys is to never give up and to keep up the fight. 


I was diagnosed in 2009 and initially I went through concerns about my future health, my future career; I was worried whether I would find a relationship or not. And I was worried about what my friends and family might think. I soon started on medication and they were working well. I realised that my health hadn’t suffered at all from my diagnosis. I started to tell my friends; I told my family. I met my boyfriend and, basically, I started to live a normal life. I decided I wanted to be open about my status and make people realise what it actually means to be living with HIV: that you’re just a normal person that lives next door. 


It’s OK to be diagnosed with HIV. I’ve been living with HIV for 19 years — I was diagnosed in 1997. Hey, I even had a baby. She’s 15 and she is not living with HIV. So it’s OK — have faith. Wake up every day with a smile; give yourself hope. Give yourself positive reinforcement every day because you’re alive! It’s a beautiful thing. Remember: you can live with this virus; it’s not as bad as you think it is. I promise you.


I don’t have any issues with HIV because I’ve accepted it. And I know, no matter what, everything is going to be OK. I have two options: choose to be sad about it, or be proactive and positive. I’d rather be happy so I educated myself, which creates confidence. I don’t care what people think. I know the truth about HIV. I know I can live. I know I can have kids without them contracting [HIV]. I know I can be in a relationship and have all the sex I want. I choose to live a normal life — my life is normal. I just have a manageable virus that I take meds for. That’s all.

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