To Be (a PHA) or Not To Be

Posted September 9, 2014 by

To be (a PHA) or not to be?

How I answer that question:

In the last couple weeks I have been a part of a friendly debate about being called a PHA and naturally I am the one who makes it a debate. While others don't like the the acronym, I don't have a real problem with it. For me its what I'm known as in the HIV community, at my AIDS Service Organization, at training sessions, at HIV conferences or anything else that I do as a person living with HIV. But that is just a small part of who I am and a small part of my world.

First, I am a son, a brother, a cousin, I'm an uncle, a father and a grandfather. I am someone's friend, someone's co-worker, or a fellow student. When I am any of these other persons, I am not a son who is a PHA, or a friend who is a PHA, on a bus or standing in line at the department store, I don't have to introduce myself by saying, "Hi, I'm Wayne and I'm a PHA. Only when I stand before my peers do I need to be a PHA. It's at that time I wear my hat proudly, for me its my PhD. I live it, I know more about it than some who works in the HIV community.

I believe the HIV community has to be a leader in the creation of acronyms. Every organization we talk about or associate with is known first by its acronym. This is the ACG blog, there is an ASO in KW known as ACCKWA. The ACG is associated with the OHTN, OAN, CAS. See what I mean?

ACG          AIDS Commitee of Guelph Wellington
OAN          Ontario AIDS Network
OHTN        Ontario HIV Treatment Network
CAS           Canadian AIDS Society
ACCKWA  AIDS Commitee of Cambridge Kitchener Waterloo and Area 

I can live with the PHA tag because right now it stands for a "Person Living With HIV/AIDS", it's something positive. If a time comes when someone outside the HIV community asks me what it stands for it's going be a positive conversation, the words "living with" will lead people to want to know more. How do you "live" with HIV?

Whether I use the full phrase or the acronym, for me the result is the same. Being so active in the community, acronyms have become a big part of my vocabulary. I use to say, "WHAT?", now I know and use most of them. Talk to me, you'll find out.

No matter what they call us it will have a name, a label. I know where the term came from, The Denver Principles, and I know why. It told people who we were and don't do anything that is about us without us.