Reflecting on 30 years since the first case of HIV
– by Acintia Wright
In the last 30 years HIV has become a great milestone for myself and my family I became positive about 16 years ago on September 16, 1995. At that time I knew very little about HIV. I was raised in a small town in the Bay Area where this was not talked about. I knew a few maybe 3 people who were positive and they were all men so of course being uninformed I thought that HIV was a gay disease. I thought you could only contract HIV from needle use and men having anal sex. I really don’t remember ever talking about AIDS in school. In our community the talk of the town was to stay clear from “those people” or you would get HIV. It wasn’t just me, it was the community gossip. I was a mother and I didn’t want “those people” to be around my children – I was oh so very cautious.
When I think about the impact that this silence about HIV has had on the mothers, women and the breakdown of the family as a whole it is devastating. Growing up we saw many families destroyed and divorcing but who knew why and still today the shame and the guilt that associates with being an HIV positive individual is still alarming. Women on the other hand have had to join in with the gay men to show that we have rights too. Women have come a very long way; from dying in the dark and in shame to walking on Capitol Hill voicing our opinions and being heard in the walls of the White House.
I remember in 1996 when this woman in a wheelchair being pushed by her daughter stopped me as I walked in the door. She could barely speak. She said the fight for women has just begun. she was so sincere and she had this look in her eyes that said please don’t give up the fight. She then had her daughter take her red ribbon off and give it to me this was my first ribbon and that woman is who began my fight in San Diego County for advocating for the rights of women and children living with HIV/AIDS.
HIV has always been very political from gay pride to women’s rights standing in unity to address these particular issues together. I think of some of my own successes and I am awed at where little ol’ me came from… from 1995 afraid and thinking I had the worst kind of HIV – that nobody’s HIV was like mine – to flying across the mighty seas to teach about HIV/AIDS prevention in Africa. In the next upcoming years I would like to see the community return back to the days when we stood as one to fight against this pandemic that impacts everyone, regardless of your gender, sexual orientation, race, and so on.
We can do as President Obama says: YES WE CAN!