1st December is World AIDs Day…
© I took this photo in Johannesburg in Dec 2007
Have you ever wondered about what it means to live with the HIV ‘virus’, either as positive carrier or as a ‘negative’ partner? I know that before I became a negative partner, I hadn’t given it much thought and was truly unaware of the social, emotional and practical impact that the HIV condition can have on everyday life.
I found that initially, on discovering the truth about my partners condition, that I was naturally confronted with immense fear, realising that I had internalised much of the information disseminated by the media campaigns of the 80’s – death, doom and AIDs!
Over time, it became necessary for me to raise my awareness and understanding with up-to-date information about HIV, however there were several other processes going on for me at the same time…
I had to be tested also and as you would imagine, I was greatly relieved to receive a ‘negative’ all-clear; but great anger had began to emerge within me towards my partner and so a difficult process of forgiveness had to be embarked upon. The anger threatened to engulf me at times and it was made worse by what felt like a “terrible secret” that was being hidden from our families and friends. This caused immense pressure on us, as it eliminated any obvious sources of possible support. The way I looked at it then was, as it was my partners truth, him being the one who physically had the HIV condition, I felt bound to honor and protect his privacy.
It was often painful and distressing to witness not just my own processes, but also his struggle with this new life-long challenge that had risen up to eclipse our life together.
Eventually though, neither of us could cope with the deep, unending sadness that enveloped our relationship and after several years of living with HIV, we eventually parted. Because of that experience, I am today fully aware of what it means to be a supporter of someone living with HIV, as it also affects ‘negative partners’ in the most profound ways. I had found out about a ‘negative partners’ group at the THT and felt affirmed by the discovery there that other ‘negative partners’ faced very similar issues.
So today and everyday from now on, be aware that there is often immense pressure to hide one’s HIV status because of the fear that results in harsh judgments and which often creates a cruel web of stigma and prejudice towards HIV positive individuals and their loved ones.
Be the exception to the rule….
What struck me in Johannesburg in 2007, was that everywhere it was visually obvious that it was World AIDs Day, with these outdoor plastic type posters in public evidence in many places in the city . Living in Britain, it’s almost as though HIV has fallen off the public agenda…