Taking Back MY Life…

angel-stetsonOctober 20, 2016

by Angel S.

This was originally published on The Well Project’s A Girl Like Me Blog and is reposted with permission.

I attended the PWN 2016 Summit in Fort Walton Beach FL; there I was able to let the demons fade away with the love and solidarity I felt by meeting such powerful and encouraging woman.

I am free from self-hate and from hiding a condition. HIV is a manageable condition I live with. I don’t need to shame myself or feel less than. I am still Angel. I saw the beauty in being honest. I stood up in a room full of women I didn’t know, yet I trusted so much. I felt the love pouring from every pore of these fabulous women.

I was able to voice things I never said out loud. I could be vulnerable and open to receive the comfort of my sisters.

I learned why I was afraid of criminalization and how to be a part of the process in changing these fears built from bad laws. I know I am just one person. Now I know without a doubt I am one person in the middle of thousands with the same concerns, the same battles, the same goals. I came back willing to entertain the thoughts of taking Action for myself and for others. One voice Can and Does matter. If I stand up with my voice I am empowering others to stand with me. I am raising awareness and teaching others it is ok to not agree. Change starts right here with one voice, ‘My Voice’. Today I am willing to be put in the middle of the conversation and teach others not to be afraid. Speaking up for my rights. HIV has become a public health problem with so many bogus laws who would want to know their status, let alone be willing to test? Once you know your status many others questions and liabilities come into play.

I am not living in fear of protecting your feelings anymore. Today, I TAKE BACK MY LIFE. I START TO DO WHAT I LOVE AND NOT BE SHAMED. I refuse to hide behind the scenes and let people not living with HIV be in control of my body or my mind. After all I am the expert on me and my body. I know what affects me positively and negatively. By speaking up, staying informed, by learning the basics and continually being willing to learn more, I am allowing myself to be uncomfortable. I am willing to have those difficult talks with my peers and friends.

The stigma of HIV will not disappear by itself. Pretending to turn the other cheek; to ignore those conversations we hear behind our backs is to turn away from loving myself.
When I don’t speak up I am saying it is ok to bash others living with same condition. If I won’t allow you to bad mouth me then why won’t I stand up for my sisters and brothers who have not yet found their voice.

I am a new person after attending the summit. I am empowered. I am no longer alone. I know where my support is. I know how to get involved and make a difference. I will not back down. I am doing this for myself and for the future of our children. I am so loved and will never spend another minute being bullied by ignorance and misunderstanding.

When asked those tough questions I will answer to the best of my ability or give linkage to find the answers sought out.

My goals are simple – to be the change I wish to see. To make informed decisions to help others become informed about what’s really happening in the world of HIV.

I loved the Summit and I look forward to sharing the experience Saturday with my “Chat” ladies (support group here in Sarasota). I am applying to attend AIDSWATCH in Washington in March. I am never going to be quiet. You have awakened the beast in me and I am here to be heard and seen. I take my life back and I am taking action on a local front to help aid in the big picture and start here at home and in my community.

I have been asked by so many, “HOW WAS YOUR TRIP?”, “WHAT DID YOU LEARN?” I learned that I forgot to use my condition and expertise on my condition to empower others who are scared. Each person moves at their own pace. Behind the scenes for some and straight up in your face for others. I wish to Thank the sponsors for the summit and all the volunteers and participants for giving me back my life.