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Rise Up to HIV:
There's No Shame About
Being HIV-Positive

By Kevin Maloney
HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C awareness advocate

January 30, 2013 - The "Rise Up to HIV" campaign was inspired by an image of Chelsea Clinton holding a sign for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. My vision for this campaign is to mobilize people across the United States and the world who are willing to stand up in an effort to reduce HIV stigma. Participants are empowered by the act of pairing a simple statement with their personal story and photo. In turn, these stories inspire hope and empower others to fight stigma. This campaign identifies and mobilizes individuals who are making a difference in their communities. When you are engaged in your own care, you'll engage others, which will in turn create healthier communities.

This is not the first anti-stigma campaign, and it certainly won't be the last. Since receiving my HIV and hepatitis C diagnoses nearly three years ago, I have seen some amazing campaigns doing good things in communities across the country and the Web. But in my opinion, not enough awareness and education campaigns can exist to tackle this issue.

As stated, the purpose of this campaign is to create an overall healthier HIV/AIDS community by reducing stigma through the mobilization and engagement of individuals in communities across the world to proclaim that there is no shame about being HIV-positive. How is this being accomplished? Through the power of social media, and through an army of caring and compassionate individuals, either infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS, who choose to take part in this campaign. Organizations are strongly encouraged to become involved in this campaign.

I will keep this campaign going for as long as possible, helping eradicate stigma one picture and one story at a time. This campaign will carry on, evolve and grow and will help in bringing an end to this epidemic. We know that stigma adds fuel to this epidemic, and I will keep on going until we see the end of HIV/AIDS. In the end all the participants will have helped make this campaign the success I feel it will be. This sign-focused campaign is the first phase of a multi-phase approach. Details will be forthcoming in the coming weeks and months.

We hear the word "stigma" thrown around a lot, but do we all know what it is? AIDS-related stigma refers to prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV and AIDS. The consequences of stigma are wide-ranging: being shunned by family, peers and the wider community; poor treatment in health care and education settings; an erosion of rights; psychological damage; and a negative effect on the success of HIV testing and treatment.

Are you currently facing stigma? Well, know this: You matter, your life matters, and you are filled with purpose! You are no less of a person because you have HIV, and if you are treated and adhere to your medication schedule, you can live a very normal and productive life (like many you see in the photos in this campaign). You can still dream big and live out those dreams, because your dreams are not infected. Don't let HIV take away your power; instead, become empowered and rise up to HIV!

How to join the campaign:

  • On Facebook: Simply tag Rise Up to HIV or send a message to Rise Up to HIV containing your photo and a sentence or two about yourself, or a longer bio if you have one, or links to any of your blogs, videos, etc., that you would like for us to feature. Visit the event page to see who else is participating, and you may visit the Facebook album of folks who have already submitted their photos.
  • On Twitter: You can tweet an image and a sentence to @RiseUpToHIV, and use the hashtag #TeamNoShame.
  • If you are not on Facebook or Twitter, you can email your photo to noshame@riseuptohiv.org, and I will be sure to place it in the album on Facebook.
  • I realize that not everyone is able to be public about their HIV status. I have received many messages stating as such, and many words of encouragement. Their support is equally precious. My reassurance to those who live in a state of fear and repression is a promise: We will keep on keeping on until everyone is free to be able to openly declare that there is no shame about being HIV-positive.

    We need to get people talking about HIV/AIDS again -- in schools, at the dinner table, in the car, on the radio, TV and all throughout social media and with foot soldiers on the ground. We need all hands on deck if we are going to finally realize the end of this epidemic.

    There is no greater feeling or power than being able to stand up to your fears, not being held hostage by your diagnosis, being amongst people who understand and being knowledgeable or gaining greater understanding of something you may have thought you had no control over but actually do. Rise up to HIV and help end the stigma! Be part of #TeamNoShame.


    About Rise UP TO HIV
    Rise Up To HIV and Help End the Stigma.
    The mission of Rise up To HIV is to educate, inspire, empower, advocate, network and partake in social change through unilateral and collaborative social media efforts of organizations, PLWHA, and our supporters with diverse backgrounds from all over the World.

    Vision: To create positive change for ones selves, families, and entire communities around the World through an army of compassionate individuals and organizations as we march towards the cure for HIV/AIDS.

    About Kevin Maloney
    Kevin Maloney, now 35 years old, was diagnosed HIV + on March 3rd, 2010, and one month later with follow up labs he was told he had also contracted Hepatitis C (genotype 1a). When Kevin found out he was HIV/HCV positive he had a choice to make. To continue down a path of unhealthy behavior with his addiction or to finally put an end to what had been a 7 year on and off again battle with Methamphetamine. He calls these diagnoses, his rock bottom. He immediately set in action plans to combat his HIV, Hepatitis C, and addiction. He was able to take a 6 month leave of absence from him job, and immediately started on Anti-Retroviral Therapy; next, he went to the Pride Institute and LGBT inpatient drug rehabilitation program to address his addiction. When he finished the 30 day program at Pride, he decided not to return to New York City and instead moved home with his father in Upstate, NY where he began treatment for Hepatitis C.

    Fortunately, Kevin caught both his HIV and HCV infection early. With early diagnosis of his HCV he was told he had an 80 percent chance at eradicating the Hepatitis C virus. With interferon and ribavirin Kevin completed 6 months of treatment vs. the standard 48 and his 6 month post treatment labs rendered him cured of Hepatitis C. Today Kevin is LIVING with HIV, he is adherent to his medications, and follows up regularly with his doctor. He has been undetectable since week 4 after starting ART.

    While on hiatus from work and undergoing Hepatitis C treatment Kevin pondered his past and future and began shaping what would become his calling in life. He turned his diagnosis into a positive force and began raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. He started sharing his experience, strength, and hope through blog and you tube video entries with hopes of inspiring others to do the same. He is a guest contributor for thebody.com and positivelite.com. Kevin coined the phrase rise up to HIV across all forms of social media with the tag line, Rising Up, Standing Out, and Speaking Up about HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. He created a Facebook page, and twitter account where he disseminates information daily on these topics, and he encourages you to follow him.

    Kevin has a bachelor's degree in Health Services Management, and currently works for Community Access National Network , which is a National 501c3 that has been advocating for access to care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C since 1996. He is under the direction of founder and CEO Bill Arnold. Kevin was also the 2011-2012 recipient of the ADAP Advocacy Association emerging leader of the year award. He has plans to enroll into a Masters in Public Health program in the fall of 2013.

    Kevin is a genuine guy, filled with passion, and love for the work he does. He hopes to be a positive influence to others. He continues to raise awareness, educate, and inspire those who are struggling with their diagnosis. He is not ashamed of his HIV Positive status, and will continue to play his part in helping to reduce the stigma associated with HIV and Hepatitis C.

    He believes that one day soon we will see a cure for HIV/AIDS, but understands the challenges that lie ahead until we get there. Kevin says that until we get to that cure we must insure that everyone living with HIV/AIDS has access to the care and treatment they need to remain alive, healthy, and productive.

    His favorite quote comes from a friend, Robert Breining who hosts the PozIAm Radio Show on Sunday evening. "Our dreams are not infected"

    "Reproduced with permission - Rise Up to HIV"

    Rise Up to HIV

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