Photo: HIV/AIDS Advocate Bradford McIntyre, Opening Speaker
at the 20th Annual International AIDS AIDS Candlelight Memorial & Vigil
May 25th 2003, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
“My name is Bradford McIntyre and Im Positively Positive! I have been living, infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) since 1984!
Photo: Bradford McIntyre,
OUT About HIV
at the 20th Annual International AIDS Candlelight Memorial & Vigil
I feel very fortunate to be sharing with you!
There is more power in people knowing I am HIV positive, than there ever was in the fear and hiding. The answers are in letting go of fear! Society has created a huge closet housing many shelves. Shelves for Gay, Bisexual, Lesbian and Transgendered, but even more shelves housing drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, physical and mental abuse, bulimia, anorexia, cancer, AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), dis-ease and disease. It is time for us to come out of the closet and tell people what is going on in our life. Then and only then can people know what is going on, support you, and if need be, offer help. We dont have to go through life alone. There are people who will show up if we let them know who we are and what is going on in our life. Instead of deciding what others can handle or know, it is time to come out of the closet. Then and only then can we be our true selves!
So much fear has been created around HIV infection and AIDS. The camouflage uniforms worn in the army, disguise and hide, so as not to draw attention, able to blend in. The fear associated with HIV and AIDS has kept us in the dark. Many have feared losing their family, friends, home and job, causing people to hide the fact they have been infected with HIV. The results are that no one can see, hear or know the truths of those living with HIV. Most often, when individuals die from HIV related illness or AIDS, the funeral announcements rarely say AIDS was the cause, but use cancer, heart disease or any other camouflage. How can we tell the real number of HIV related deaths? How can the public know without the truth? We are in the dark because the whole picture is not being told. Individuals dealing with HIV and all those around them who are affected but not infected, they know these truths.
What we don't see are the great numbers of individuals infected with HIV living a happy and full life.
We don't see or hear about individuals infected with HIV, who have never had any immune suppression and have never had any HIV replicated in their bodies. We don't see all the people who were in wheelchairs due to neuropathy, wasting or other complications, who recover and return to wellness. We don't see or hear about HIV infected mothers who gave birth and now, their children are grown and they are having children. We don't see it because people are afraid to talk about HIV and AIDS or disclose they have been infected. We don't have them coming forward to tell their side of HIV and AIDS. How are we going to get people to come forward when the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS has created so much fear?
People are hiding their HIV infection, yet it makes no sense to believe that everyone who is infected will get sick. This is likened to the early days of cancer, hiding the fact, only whispering the C word. Everyone who develops cancer does not die. It makes no sense to believe everyone who is infected with HIV will get sick or die, either.
In the media, we are rarely shown people who benefit from the antiretroviral drugs and have their health restored, many returning to the work force. We don't see or hear about individuals who test positive for HIV or have AIDS, in relationships, falling in love. We don't see the many relationships, where one partner is infected with HIV and one is not and the partner who is negative, is not infected.
Even though it has been nearly 30 years since the emergence of the AIDS virus, there still exists today fear and discrimination for those infected. Even with the progress and success in treatments and fewer deaths, people are still afraid to tell others that they have been infected! The fear and hiding continues because most people are not willing to come forward and have their voices heard. Fortunately, there are some people who are NOT afraid to talk about the fact that they have been infected, who are working to create awareness and education in the many issues surrounding HIV/AIDS.
Initially, we didn't understand the AIDS virus and panic occurred.Today, we have moved from a place of confusion and little knowledge, to a place where we have a much broader understanding. Now, we can eliminate the fear and promote a new awareness, relying on education and a wide variety of treatment options. With choice, there is hope!
With proper awareness and education, we can go about living our lives responsibly, “showing up for life”, without fear. Unafraid, we can tell people we are living with HIV, talking about HIV, or conversations about safe sex. Letting go of the fear, we can talk with our family and friends and to co-workers with whom we discuss our personal lives. Our employer can know health related information. If need be, we can ask for help and receive help! Also, we can eliminate false perceptions and judgments that were created from not having the right information and prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.
These years spent cohabiting with HIV have taught me a great deal. I learned about my spirit, my mind and body. I searched for and learned about alternative and complementary therapies and incorporated them into my life. I chose a healthy lifestyle and worked at being responsible for how I think and feel and for what I put into my body. I exercised my mind and spirit and my physical body. I learned the power of faith and prayer in healing, our own as well as the faith and prayers of those who care and love us. And I will say it again... I learned there is more power in people knowing the truth, than there ever is in fear and hiding. I learned the abundance of life does not come from what one provides for oneself, but it is found in our connectedness. I would not be where I am today if it were not for all the support and love from the many people in my life!
I would like You to take a moment to look around. See each other. See we are all connected! Whether You are affected by, or infected with HIV, we must cross those boundaries of Fear and Discrimination. To join Our Hearts, To Lift Our Hearts, in the realization we are ALL here to Love one another. I join with you that we create a shift in thinking around HIV/AIDS, and All disease! Love is the way!