The Red Ribbon symbolizes World AIDS Day and HIV/AIDS awareness!
Proudly show that you are aware and that you care. Wear your red ribbon!
Basic Facts About HIV/AIDS:
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.
AIDS is a result of being infected with HIV.
HIV is not spread through everyday, casual contact.
A physician is needed to diagnose AIDS.
“It’s not who we are, but rather what we do that determines the risk factor of HIV infection.” ~ Red Cross HIV/AIDS prevention education ~
Follow protocols for reducing HIV infections:
Do not share needles, syringes or drug use tools.
Avoid contact with body fluids.
Treat everyone with care and respect.
Since the first World AIDS Day observance on December 1, 1988. The date was first conceived in August, 1987, by James Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland.
Each year, Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis have released messages for both patients and health care providers on World AIDS Day. They have also publicly offered prayers for a world living with HIV.
In the USA, the White House (presidential home) began observing World AIDS Day under the administration of President Clinton and the iconic display of a 28-foot massive Red AIDS Awareness Ribbon on the North Portico of the building. It was the first banner to prominently hang from the White House since the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.
by Rohan, the Nubian-Ikigai
It was in the late autumn of 1978 that I came into this world. My mom would always tell me that I was an overdue birth; as it I didn’t want to leave the womb. I see it like being cuddled up in bed. Who’d want to leave such a comfy spot? To this very day, that has still remained my all-time favourite activity.
So being born in 1978 meant that I grew up in the 80’s. Wow! What a decade! Madonna, Punk fashions, Hurricane Gilbert and skyrocketing food prices – if you’re Jamaican – and…AIDS!
Being an island didn’t mean that we were isolated from world issues, especially when your island is renowned for its culture, its beaches, its sunshine and sex. I saw all the AIDS prevention ads on TV: “AIDS kills,” “stick to one steady partner,” “use a condom,” and “you can’t tell by looking.” I grew up scared! I grew up being scared of actually growing up!
Throughout high school, we teens would laugh about stuff pertaining to sex and sexuality, there was little or no sex education in school and what we learned came from porn, the dancehall music or the local pastor. The radio broadcast the death of Freddie Mercury. I remember that so well because I was wearing a Queen t-shirt at that very moment! I heard of Arthur Ashe; in school we talked and laughed about the death of Rock Hudson – I didn’t know who he was at that time. But the dearest tragedy for me was when I learned that Olympic diver Greg Louganis was diagnosed HIV+. I was personally touched because I knew who he was. He was my hero, a gay Olympic champion! And, of course, during the 80’s and 90’s, they constantly reminded us of the growing numbers of new cases.
So as I fast forward a bit to young adult, HIV/AIDS was less and less stranger. It was now a reality. It had faces! And faces that I knew!
I made friends with people working in the local AIDS support association and the church I attended did volunteering and outreach. Being scared didn’t shield me from the harsh realities of my life. I wasn’t going to be spared. AIDS was not going to have pity. Not on this little island boy. No sir!… Familiar faces kept vanishing, boys I fell in love with kept getting sick: Julian, Everton, Fred, Frank. A church member was dying. I saw their faces. I saw their bodies lying on the hospital beds. I saw them agonizing. I saw them dying…I loved them. I loved them as hard as I could. I held them in my heart; it’s all I could have done.
There was only love, that’s what they needed, not pity or shame, but Love. I understood that. I had that gift.
Allisson was my elder. She and I were friends, we weren’t that close. She was the first child my dad got from his first relationship, so, we were as close as two half-siblings who were ten years apart could be. She had her life and her family: boyfriend, son and daughter. I checked in with her as often as I could. I still thank God for that last moment I spent with her. It was in the local store where she worked. Allisson was standing there behind the counter. She looked so thin, so pale, so not all together there. Nothing could have prepared me for that grim phone call I’d received a few years later…AIDS took my beloved sister.
To be honest I did my best to play it safe, but I also took my fair share of risks. I even slept with the enemy. Why I didn’t remember all those faces, all those bodies I saw, covered in sores, laying on those hospital beds? Why didn’t I remember the agony? I should have ran! But I didn’t…I wanted cuddles instead. It only takes one encounter. I slept with this guy twice in the Summer of 2005 I was diagnosed in the Fall of that very same year. Painful urine and a creamy white substance leaking from my penis made me go to the doctor real quick.
I was alone when I went to the doctor’s, I was alone when the doctor broke the news, I was alone when I went to the hospital to have his diagnosis confirmed. I was alone to face the stark reality that I was not going to be living a normal life. Oddly though, the news that I was HIV positive wasn’t as earth shattering. It didn’t have that devastating effect as I had imagined. I didn’t scream, or cry, or ask God why? Maybe it’s my way of dealing with trauma: in silence.
My explanation is that, growing up gay prepared me for days like these. If I could handle growing up gay in a homophobic society such as mine, anything else would be a piece of cake. I kind of figured that, somehow it’s kind of logical, sad way to think. I agree it’s a bit fatalistic: being gay isn’t a death sentence! But for me it was. So I imagine I was accepting my fate. My mom was right. A gay life is one of damnation and hellfire. And this was exactly what I deserved.
Since then, I’ve celebrated seventeen birthdays, visited six countries and changed two jobs. I have met my beautiful niece who is also living with the disease as she was contaminated at birth and I am currently in a stable long-term relationship. I am disciplined regarding my meds and my combat still rages more than ever. I can’t say that I have had to face discrimination regarding AIDS as not that many people know. I do my best to stay healthy, “Sound Mind, Sound Body.” I workout regularly and I combat negativity. I have grown to love myself, understand and own who I am and cultivate self-worth. I was young but now I am mature, I have seen my friends fallen by the wayside but I am still here. I had to learn gratitude.
Living with HIV is a daily reminder that I need to turn fear and trauma into triumph. I have had a new beginning, renewed hope. A fighting chance. I have to believe, not only in myself but in whatever higher power there may be. I need to believe that somewhere out there and also within, there is a greater power…love! Doesn’t love conquer all?
I am very appreciative of Rohan, the Nubian-Ikigai for sharing his personal testimonial with all of us here on ReNude Pride on the occasion of World AIDS Day, 2022. His courage and honesty is a remarkable and significant accomplishment that indeed reflects his dedication to dispelling myths and misinformation about being same gender loving (gay) as well as about living with HIV. He is a commendable guest author and I sincerely invite him to contribute whenever possible!
Roger Poladopoulos/ReNude Pride
Author’s Note: The next post entry for here is planned for tomorrow, Friday, December 2, 2022, and the proposed topic is: “Seasonal Signs!”