By Naimah O’Neal
I am always telling women that you must make up your mind about how you feel being positive. If you don’t have a good mental attitude about being positive, then you will never begin to live your best life while living with HIV.
While I still live each day of my life with these words, I must say that sometimes I feel that the rest of the world needs to get a life. HIV is a virus like other STI, but I often see the looks on people’s faces when I tell them about myself or when the topic is about to be discussed. I call this look the OH MY GOD, NOT THAT HIV TALK AGAIN! look. Mind you, no one will come right and say anything, but the looks on their faces speak volumes. Most of the time I can use that look to offer education about the illness so that they will get tested, or tell someone else about the conversation so that they will hopefully learn about their status to get into care or stay protecting themselves against becoming infected.
But sometimes I think to myself, “Why do I feel the need to offer my story or information when most women feel that this will never happen to me?” HIV is for those women were having sex with everyone out in those streets. My God, HIV has been on the screen for the past 30 + years, and I still find that people must have just climbed out of some rock or hillside where the phone, TV and radio were broken!
I must say first that I was like some of them, because I never thought that I had to worry about illness for these reasons:
- I saw a few programs and the news talking about HIV, but they never said that heterosexual women could get this STI. Trust me, if they had told me back then that women could become HIV positive, my vagina would have been on lockdown so tight that the new Jesus would not have come into the world though me!
- I did not drink or do drugs, so I hurt for the people who were getting sick and dying, but in the back of my mind, I was protected from getting this illness. (So I can understand, but back then some people knew but were not sharing).
- I love people and would never have said that, because of who they loved, the illness was a result, because only GOD can judge.
I still find it hilarious that some men and women–the partners of positive women–try to use a woman’s status against her, saying on the one hand that they love the positive woman, as long as she does what they want when and for as long that they want her to.
First I must say no thank you to that kind of love, and using someone’s status to keep them in a bad relationship is the lowest form of madness on so many levels. Since I am trying to keep these blog posts about solutions I will offer some things to think about.
First, a saying that I pass along to positive women: Start saying to yourself in the morning, “I’m going to have a positive day, and things might not work out how I want them to…but through it all, God is still good.” I said this because you can’t control other people, only yourself–so this saying and my faith are my protection that I use each day.
I also speak up in a strong clear voice when I hear a stupid comment or misinformation being given. I want to tell women to speak out about laws that tell us that we must bear the weight of this illness. That people don’t have to be responsible about their sexual health. That is illness has many layers that must be peeled back to be fixed before HIV/AIDS can truly be discussed in the country and the world. I look in my mirror and know that I must speak to be part of the solution. A friend of mine has a saying: “If you are not at the table, then you will be on the menu.”