World AIDS Day 2021
On this World AIDS Day, we would like you to read the letter we published a few years ago, written by a student and former UNDIVIDED member with HIV. You can find the Dutch version here.
Underneath the letter, you can watch the World AIDS Day message from Winnie Byanyima, executive director of The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
LETTER: What do I bring? Laptop, pen, book and HIV-pill
Three months ago I thought that I could never grab this chance: the opportunity to be a student, like many others were before me, and many are yet to be. Yes, I’m a student who enjoys – strangely enough – studying. Between my studies, going out, having fun and cultural events, I’m noticing nothing will ever be the same. While most students stress out about their exams, degree and future, I’ll rather worry if tomorrow I’ll still be able to learn about life.
I chose to study philosophy, because it could question everything I had learned before. Because when the doctor told me I was HIV positive, I had to get to know myself all over again. I don’t set high expectations for myself anymore. By not demanding these high expectations for myself, I have more energy to put in things that make me happy and that give my life an added value. I would be lying if I wouldn’t admit that it has been a quest and an extremely hard task. But I believe in myself.
I went to the welcoming days (of the university, red.) with mixed feelings, a fear preparing me for the worst, but also happiness, because I finally was doing something with my heart. The driving force is there. As far as discomfort goes, I’m still looking for a balance.
Even though the medical sector has come a far way in their research about HIV, it still isn’t very self-evident for me. How do I tell the people around me about this chronic illness, which can even be fatal when the medication intake is not done right.
The moment I heard I was undetectable, was not a literal relief. It means that the virus could not multiply and therefore I would not give the virus to others. Although I could see that I was giving myself more freedom, on a social level, as well as on a intimate and sexual level. Because yes: I too have the need to give and receive love.
Sharing it with other people isn’t self-evident to me. People often say that they don’t have a problem with it. But if their best friend or partner would be HIV-positive, suddenly it would be a bit more sensitive. And I haven’t even mentioned the isolation, because of pain, fear and unacceptance, by people who assume people with HIV brought it upon themselves.
Thankfully, I’ve met a lot of people who didn’t have problem with it. I was also able to tell the members of UNDIVIDED. A sense of trust is a first step. Feeling like you belong, regardless of your disability, and being able to share your talents and interests with others: that’s what student life is all about.
In these stories the causes often are not the most important thing, because then we’re touching sensitive chords. Of course there’s always a cause, also with me. The fear to be judged for that is just there, and that fear won’t necessarily contribute.
By writing this, I’m hoping to show people that they’re not alone. Whether you want to shout it from the rooftops, share it with a buddy or keep it to yourself, nothing should change in your life. It’s not easy, but we can start by loving each other and that’s a social thing. So whoever you are, you deserve to be someone’s loved one. (KDB)
1 December is World AIDS Day. This day is about the battle against HIV and solidarity with people who are living with the illness.
As mentioned in this message, the UN set a goal to end AIDS by 2030. An effort you can read more about here.