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Dear HIV/AIDS Survivor,
Well, look at us. A fraternity that no one wants to join. If only I could, my desire would be to embrace you personally, let you exhale and in that moment remove this horrendous diagnosis from your body and set you free.
I commend you on your courage and your fight to cope during the trials and tribulations that this disease has wrought upon your life.
I understand your internal conflict and the anxieties of dealing with the side effects of medications and not feeling well in general.
I understand the dread of constant testing which is now your lifestyle. I understand your turmoil over disclosure to your family and friends and possible lovers.
I know about those tears you shed out loud and in silence because I have shed them as well. I understand your fear of dying.
I know that while outwardly you may show signs of life, inwardly you feel dead; perhaps not because you can't handle the physical fact of your diagnosis, but because you fear a social death if you are found out.
Stigma and prejudice is a chronic social disease that affects you in a highly personal way. We live in a society that is often cruel.
We are judged on the heels of society’s lack of knowledge and understanding about our diagnosis.
However, don’t be a victim. Stand strong. Take back the power that is rightfully yours. Realize your self-worth.
Allow that brilliance inside of you to shine, because you are valuable and special.
You have something to offer the world that no one else can. Your voice is important.
No one has the right to rob you of your self-confidence. As you work through the process of owning your individual status and arriving at your decision to be “out” or not, you can still help others gain knowledge about this pandemic.
Believe me, I respect your privacy to the fullest degree. God knows I do.
Every individual arrives at different stages and comfort levels at different times and in different ways.
It is your walk and you know what you are able to handle.
Future generations need us.
They need to hear our voice.
They need advocates who are experienced at working diligently to promote education and enlightenment which, in turn, saves lives. When you’re ready, join me. We have a fight on our hands. Your voice can help end stigma. Join the millions of unsung heroes all “ova” the world who are in solidarity and are fighting back.
You and I have kinship. We are thriving, and even though my self-esteem is sometimes in the dumps, I pick myself up and press on.
It is my love and compassion for humanity which drives me each and every day. This book and this letter are born from that love.
People who are close to me see my passion to help others succeed as a gift—the gift of encouragement, support, teaching and inspiration to others to be the best that they can be.
Seize the day!