Some days ago, I was thinking about a way to help me learn about the women in my network without getting too personal. I know that some people are particular about sharing, so in my private time as I talk to them, I ask them one simple question; “what is your favorite song?” This question does a few things: 1) it is an open-ended question, so it allows the other person to have to stop and think about themselves even if they already know, 2) it allows for a longer conversation because it brings up the story of how the song became so special, and 3) by placing this as a ringtone for each of my network friends, it allows me to think of the story and how other women’s experiences and stories, even if it is a ringtone, strengthens and empowers me. Lastly, the ringtone makes that person even more special by hearing a piece of them when they call. It is a simple way not to forget, and to remember to smile.
Let us know in what way do you find it easy to share without exposing yourself to deep?
Living with HIV presents its own sets of challenges, but when you add school and homework to the mix it can make life even more difficult. I had to take 2 years off of school when I developed HIV-related cancer, non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and for the moment HIV had won out against my determination to finish school. Beating the cancer was challenging in itself, and I was really too sick and tired to even think school-related thoughts. After I went through chemo, surgery, and had been in remission for some time, I started to think about school and how to pick up where I left off. I was a year in remission when I re-enrolled to finish my A.A. degree and get my life moving forward again.
My point is that everybody, especially those living with HIV and other chronic illnesses, can face their greatest challenges and still come out fighting on the other side. You might leave some pieces of yourself behind in that dark time, but everybody has something to live for. For me, that was my family and finishing my schooling. No matter what it is you are fighting for, just remember that there are others fighting alongside of you. Everybody might be fighting for different things, but at least you are fighting!
When I was leaving New York Back in 1991 I was also planning my funeral. I wanted to spend the time I had left enjoying my son. I had been diagnosed with HIV in 1983. Now that was one of the hardest things for me to face- knowing I had to leave him orphaned. No amount of therapy could take that deep hurt from my heart.
So, I learned to cherish every moment I had. Because back then, no one knew what the lifespan was for someone with HIV. I would hear from doctors different things like “you could live another three to five years.” Then another doctor – I remember her telling me the magic number is now “seven years.”
It’s been thirty-two years since my diagnosis and I am still going strong. I am healthy emotionally, physically and spiritually, And, I must say I have become more sassy in my older years. Ironic to say, but I give all the credit to having the big V. Not the best way to change your life, but for me it was, that was my blessing in disguise. I am still learning of life’s endless possibilities. I no longer need to just survive – I can actually have a life.
I had the privilege to help raise my three granddaughters, which for me, there is no greater pleasure in life. I thought being a mother was, but when you are blessed with grandchildren it takes you to a whole other level.
Who knew I would be still here today so eager to make a difference in this life, this is some of what paying it forward means to me.
What are your thoughts? Let us hear from you…
Paying it forward has become a way of life for me. It is ironic that being living with HIV has opened so many doors for me, meaning I do not think I would have had the opportunity to meet all the awesome people in my life that I have.
It started with my psychologist. When I first found out I was infected with the big V, as I call it, boy, did I give her a run for the money, to say the least! So my point is I received years of psychotherapy just to deal with the fact that I was living with HIV. Being in therapy though, opened up a whole new world for me. I learned so much- from coping with the hand I was dealt to learning who I was as a person. Not by any means was all this an easy task. Therapy is hard work -I kid you not. You have to be able to look at difficult issues in your life. Had I not been infected with the big V, I probably would never have had the chance to be in counseling.
So that opened the door for me to be more open-to meet other great people in my life. I decided I wanted to leave New York. I wanted a slower pace of life, so I moved to Florida. My ID Doc at the time helped me so much. She made the phone calls for me where I was going to get my health care. That led me to a nurse who was at the health department in Gainesville. She helped me so much. Before I knew it doors were opening up everywhere for me. It was then that I started to want to pay it forward, for others who were where I started.
Since then it was like a domino effect- I felt so blessed, it made me want to continue to do more and more for other women living with HIV, because I knew first hand what they were going through. I must say the big V was my learning tool. And, it has made me the woman I am today. Ironic but true, living with the big V made me not dare to take anything for granted again in my life. It was like a whole new world was out there waiting for me. Who knew I would be still here today, so eager to make a difference in this life. This is some of what paying it forward means to me.
How have you paid it forward? Have any good suggestions? Share them with us!!
The US Government just released the following infographic which looks at the top 5 changes concerning HIV/AIDS, since 2010.
Also, today was the release of the complete National HIV/AIDS Strategy which looks at the next five years and what they hope is accomplished. The Strategy states that it is designed to “work closer to virtually eliminating new HIV infections, effectively supporting all people living with HIV to lead long and healthy lives and eliminating the disparities that persist among some populations.”
You can download the Strategy at: http://1.usa.gov/1SkAseK
What are your thoughts about the infographic?
Are there other items you would like to see addressed?
“To live with HIV is to live 2 lives. You are living a life of normality, but yet there is a part of it that is unreal. The unreal part is the one where HIV reigns supreme. It is the part that knows the pain, heartache, and strength it takes to go through something like that, but it is also the part that better understands tolerance and acceptance. It is the part that knows what unconditional love is, and it is also, more importantly, the part that makes you the person you are today. How many people can say that they get to live two lives, with each one being an integral part of that person’s spirit. We might have HIV, but we are stronger and better because of it.” These inspiring words are from a Let’s Talk About It Certified Peer Advocate. She understands that knowing your status is a way to care for yourself.
June 27 is National HIV Testing Day. Let’s Talk About It Peer Advocates work to end the stigma around HIV and offer support and resources to those women who are living with HIV or female caregivers. If you or a woman you know is living with HIV, we are here to help. email@example.com So get tested!
Yesterday April 10th marked an important awareness day on our fight against HIV/AIDS. This disease can affect anyone, even young people and it is important to continue fighting against the stigma and obstacles that people living with HIV/AIDS face on a day to day basis. This day is dedicated to the millions of young people who one way or another have become infected with the virus.
In the US today, almost 40% of new HIV infections are diagnosed in young people ages 13-29. This staggering number is a good reminder that we must continue to create awareness and encourage prevention as well as testing especially among our newer generations. It is important to include young people in the conversation about HIV/AIDS and to see them as leaders and strong allies who can inspire their peers to get tested and learn ways to protect themselves from this disease.
If you would like to know more about this awareness day and how HIV/AIDS is affecting millions of young people around the world, you can visit the following websites where you will find useful statistics as well as resources and ideas to take action today!
I have been journaling everyday for the last 2 years. It has been one of the freeing experiences in my life because it actually allows me to slow down to think about what is truly happening around me, as well as what my part is in it.
Here are 6 ways that journaling will change your life.
- How do you feel? Journaling can help you get what you truly feel inside out of the way. This helps when we are caught in the “retrace of life”, when we tend to disregard our feelings and keep ourselves busy and jaded.
- Point of view: Journaling can give us a better understanding of our own point of view, as well as, what others think of our situation. It’s taught me that it’s not about what others think, when we journal, it is about OUR point of view.
- A life worth living: I like to think that of journaling as “my life’s story.” That alone makes it Fun, Enjoyable, and Inspiring to write a little about myself and what’s going on with me, everyday of my life. After journaling continuously for sometime and looking back on the things that I have written, I realize that life is much more interesting and deeper than I thought. It’s a Great way to discover that my life is truly worth living.
- Hi, my name is…: Do you know yourself without thinking too hard about it? Chances are you are only who you think you are. This was true for me before I started writing for myself everyday. I thought I knew what I liked or disliked, who I was, where I was going in life and memories of where I have been. In reality, these aspects of myself were only what I thought I should be, not actually who I was. Journaling helped me to uncover my dreams, goals, and boundaries.
- A cooler person: The idea of being able to write for your life and passing it along to someone else, such as, children, grandchildren, or friends, without being ashamed. This allows others to feel more connected to you, and lets them learn that you are only human, that you live life, and that you have feelings too.
- Build your serenity: Getting back to number 1, when you start to write about your feelings and how situations in your life changes your feelings, you can gain the ability to start to process those feelings, rather than leaving them bottled up inside, put them on paper so you can get them out of your heart and mind. This is so you can process and try to understand them more, which will bring you to a serene existence and helps you to notice your feelings like anger, jealousy, resentment, even joy and happiness. This is what helps me feel better.
You can write about anything, the sky is the limit. It’s a good way to cope and help yourself.
Have you tried journaling? For more ideas check out the newest Let’s Talk About It magazine, Put Yourself First http://rwhp.org/letstalk.html