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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It Gets Better - Even With HIV

I have really loved the whole It Gets Better project - I think it's so important to reach young gay/queer people and let them know that in fact the terrible shit we often have to deal with as teens doesn't last and life can in fact be pretty damn good even if you don't fit the normal patterns.

Some people have criticised it for being too simplistic, for not acknowledging the crap and bullying that can happen all through our lives, or for being too white and middle-class, and while I get that point, I think it ignores the fact that for most of us life does get better.

I've wondered if there would be any point to doing something similar but about living with HIV. Because, as shitty as it is to have this virus in us - and it is - it does get better over time. And again, there are exceptions to be kept in mind - it's not a bed of roses, but it's not as bad as it was in the old days.

Now I don't know how I'd cope if I were living in a small town and had HIV. I imagine it would be very lonely and difficult without good friends and other HIV+ people to share stuff with. Having a network of HIV+ mates and knowing how to use the services around, and just being in a gay community that is supportive of me and looks past my HIV makes a massive difference. I know I'm lucky. And some poz people have very limited choices about where they can live for all sorts of reasons, so they can't just up sticks and move to a bigger city with better access to support. I'd love to see something effective done to give those poz people better support somehow.

There is something lacking in support for HIV+ people in NZ, and to be frank none of the groups or organisations around are doing that good a job at meeting those needs right now, with the exception of Positive Women, and even they have their critics.

But, after that initial shock of diagnosis, which  can often take a couple of years to get over, or for some even longer, life with HIV does get better for most of us. You can travel. You can work. You can have a sex life.You can fall in love. You can lead a good life. Maybe it won't be the life you would have had without HIV, but you can still have a very good life.

It's important to hold onto hope, especially in the bad times. When I was diagnosed in 1988 I was told I had about 2 years to live - but I'm still alive, working, loving, playing, and enjoying my life mostly. I've had times of being incredibly sick, and for a long time I never imagined that it could or would get better - but it has.

Hold on through the bad times, ask for help and support. It does get better.

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