2020 has certainly been a year that will go down in history. It has brought smiles, sadness, and solitude for many people around the globe. For a person living with HIV, these emotions may be a regular feature of everyday life. For some it may be one more than another, while others paint their smiles on with lipstick and perform for their social circle.
As a person living with HIV, in the UK I was placed in the ‘Clinically Vulnerable’ category and told to shield (i.e. remain at home where possible and limit social interactions) for twelve weeks. I adapted to this like a duck to water. Home is my ‘safe space’ anyway, and being told I could not leave it for 12 weeks was a dream. I began creating my new normal routine and my fiancé and I loved every minute. He enjoyed being furloughed and having some much-needed time off, whilst I enjoyed witnessing him realise how stressful it was to think of a new meal to cook every single day. Our ‘new normal’ became our safest way of living. Our pace of life slowed down and gave us time to really enjoy our time together. We conquered all those small jobs which mount up around the home: painting the garden fence, finally reaching the bottom of the wash basket, and deciding we would like to expand our family and rescue a dog.
“I quickly realised that living with HIV has granted me power.”
For me, following guidance from the Government was not the difficult part of the COVID journey. Re-entering society was. During the 12 weeks of self-isolation, I had heard many people talk about the virus in many ways. Some had the perspective of ‘we simply have to learn to live with it’ while others described it as, ’the modern Plague.’ Both baffled me as COVID became part of our vocabulary so quickly, dominating both the media and casual conversations between friends, yet HIV remains taboo for many across the globe. How has COVID become part of society’s everyday language and HIV has not? HIV has effective treatment. HIV has decades of scientific research and data to back decisions made. With effective treatment, HIV does not kill people.
Coronavirus does all the above and more.
COVID-19 has given people a taster of what it’s like to live with a virus within you and to not be able to do anything about it. Yes, COVID is awful and yes, the National Health Service (NHS) is doing an amazing job. But HIV is awful too and those same doctors working with Infectious Diseases have been doing an amazing job treating people living with HIV for decades prior to this outbreak.
“COVID became part of our vocabulary so quickly, dominating both the media and casual conversations between friends, yet HIV remains taboo for many across the globe.”
As I took the brave steps beyond my front door, I quickly realised that living with HIV has granted me power. I felt prepared, stronger than ever and ready for whatever was coming my way. I realised the threat people were talking of was in their minds. As people living with HIV, we have unknowingly become well equipped to cope with the mental pressure imposed by the threat of an invisible virus surrounding us. We are strong. We are prepared. We are powerful.
Find your positive place within you. Be brave and walk your own path to find your rainbow.
By Written By Lillibobs Machin
This blog was originally posted on Life and Love with HIV on August 2 2020