Telling My Story

In early January of this year I signed up for a workshop called "Speaker's Bureau". I told myself last year that I would take as many workshops as I could fit into my schedule, I wanted to learn more about HIV and "Living" with it. I never even thought about it, or asked what exactly it was all about. Speakers Bureau is learning how to go out into the community and tell your story to groups of people and try to put a face to HIV, not letting HIV be just a number, just a statistic. People out there need to know who can get HIV.

So, who can get HIV? Using myself as an example, I am someone's son, brother, cousin, I am someone's father, uncle, grandfather, hopefully someone's great grandfather someday. I was someone's co-worker, someone's friend, a classmate in school or someone they sat beside on the bus today. Unless you know that I have HIV you wouldn't guess it by looking at me. HIV positive people don't have a tatoo on their forehead, most of us look just as healthy as anyone else they pass on the street.

Now I have to do five "speaks" to get my certificate which I am really looking forward to. This is something I have thought about doing. Yesterday (Feb. 23) I had an opportunity to talk to some University students at the ACG office. I thought I was prepared but when I entered the room it became a very small room, I got nervous. I told as much of my story as I could and then answered questions, some very good questions. One in particular I wished I could have answered better was, "What message or a couple of messages would I want them to take and pass along in their future work?" I believe that was the way it was worded, or close anyway. I was stumped, I had a list of them here at home on the computer but didn't make a copy to take along with me. Message to self, make a copy of that list, keep with you at all times!

In response to that question now, I would say to them, if you are working with someone who is newly diagnosed, encourage them to find someone they can trust full heartedly and tell that person. Building a solid support team is one of the most important things I needed. Have the person get involved in his/her healthcare, educate themselves on what it will take for them to live long fulfilling lives because you do live with HIV now. Have them enlist the help of their local Aids Committee and attend workshops, especially the Positive Prevention course, the best course ever. Each time it runs there is new information dealing with medication advances, HIV and the law are just some. The Aids Committees can also help them find safe places to go for help where they will be welcome and made to feel comfortable.

After it was over, of course you always think of something else. My thought was, after listening to me, a person over 50, if it was a help to them, being that they were all in their very early 20's. I guess when they start work out in the community they will work with people of all ages so I am thinking it was important to hear it from someone older. ‘Another note to self, ask for some feedback in the future!' Jeeeeze, and they even taught that in the course.

So I need four more speaks to get my certificate and I'm willing to continue as long as there are people to listen. If anyone knows of a group that could benefit from listening to some of us tell our stories, there are a few people who will do this through ACG, just contact B. J. Caldwell and hopefully he can work it out with you.

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Ontario
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