My Message Would Be

There are times when I'm asked what message would I like to give to people about HIV. It stumps me. So many things run through my mind and I always forget a few. I have learned so much in the last couple years, so now I have a list of messages. I know by the time I finish this I will have forgotten some while trying to remember others. It could be just a normal aging thing or it could be part of the HIV and aging process I'm currently learning about.

So here are some of my tips based on what I have learned. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below and someone will respond. All comments have to be monitored by the site manager so all questions can be answered anonymously. Any personal questions for me about living with HIV I will answer as honestly as I can.

1) Learn the risks and get educated on the current information. It's not the 80's anymore and it's not just a gay disease. Depending on your lifestyle and sexual behaviour, there is a risk factor that you could be taking. Contact your local AIDS Service Organization: (ACG) AIDS Committee of Guelph and Wellington County here in Guelph or ACCKWA (AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener & Waterloo and Area) in Kitchener/Waterloo. By contacting these ASOs you can learn what activities have the highest risk or the lowest risk, but remember, low risk is still a risk. ACG and ACCKWA can also give you information for Hep C treatment and access to support.

2) If you are re-entering the dating scene, it's a whole lot different now. You must not just take someone's word that they are negative. Ask them and find out. Insist on using a condom. A person who cares about you and about themselves will not have a problem using one.

3) Until you know someone is negative always use a condom, not just for protection from HIV but from STIs (sexually transmitted infections) as well. If you contract an STI first, your body is busy fighting it and HIV can find its way into your system a little easier and in most cases it will continue to fight the STI first.

4) If you know someone, such as a friend or family member, who may be putting themselves at risk, talk to them. Support them to go and get tested and go with them if you have to.

5) HIV is not a death sentence anymore but it is a LIFE sentence. You can live to be a very old person but it won't always be easy with the medications you have to take daily.

6) If you do test HIV positive you will have to tell every potential partner you have throughout the course of your life that you are positive. Failing to do this could lead to some very serious legal circumstances and you could go to jail. The law hasn't caught up to the current information and facts but there are people fighting to have them changed.

They say that every twelve seconds, someone in the world will become infected with HIV. That person may be in your neighbourhood and if they were, would you support them? It's believed and statistics are available that show 26% of men who have sex with men don't know they are infected or haven't been tested. They are also finding and compiling statistics on women who don't know their status.

HIV and treatment of HIV have changed so much over the years. There shouldn't be the stigma around it that there is. If people get the education and the truth, we might be able to end stigmatization. HIV has been around for 30 years now, lets not let it be around another 30 years. Let us care about each other and move to "Get To Zero in 2012".

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