# HIV HEROES

VANGARDIST

64

# H

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i v h e r o e s

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i o

"Who are you?"

HIV—three letters that turned my life

upside down. Many people think I

must be unhappy and despair over my

life! Well, yes, I am indeed HIV positive,

but primarily I am a mother, friend

and partner.

For many years I had been leading a

double life in a marriage conditioned

by violence, but when I was diagnosed

20 years ago, I realized something had

to change. The diagnosis was a wakeup

call because it made me see how

wonderful, but also how terribly short,

(my) life can be.

In spite of my fears, I decided to openly

share my HIV status because I don’t

want to hide and have to lie about who

I am, and so I founded PULSHIV in Vienna.

It’s a special interest group organised

by and for people with HIV/AIDS

and their families. We provide information,

counsel and guidance on HIV and

often live with it ourselves. We’re people

with and without HIV/AIDS who

have taken their lives and futures into

their own hands.

"Why are you doing this?"

Today, I’m living a “normal” life. I work,

meet friends, have hobbies and spend

as much time as I can with my family.

My social circle is very important to me;

they’re my friends through good and

bad times. Over the years, I’ve come

to realise how important it is to share

your problems with others. Many people

with HIV think that they’re alone

with it, but that’s not true. Communication

is essential to my quality of life.

I’ve been in a partnership with an HIVnegative

man for many years. At the

beginning, things were difficult because

many people didn’t accept our

relationship. We faced a lot of prejudices

which, as far as I’m concerned,

were completely unfounded because,

against all odds, we’re still together today.

My son was six when he learned about

my status—an age when he wasn’t yet

able to really grasp what HIV meant—

but with professional help he has learned

to live with it. There were times

when he talked about it a lot, but today

I feel that HIV is as normal a part

of life to him as is eating or taking a

shower is.

It was my conscious choice to become

an advocate for the interests and concerns

of people with HIV. In today’s

society, this illness continues to be a

taboo and, way too often, something

people whisper about behind closed

doors while the real problems are not

discussed. The majority of HIV-positive

people are scared to openly deal with

their illness because, even in 2015,

too many of us still harbour prejudices

against HIV and fear coming in contact

with it.

We finally have to get rid of the myths

of the 80s and draw attention to all the

positive changes instead. We have to

put HIV on the agenda, raise awareness

for this issue and strongly encourage

communication on a sociopolitical

level. That’s what drives me.

Through donating my blood to be part

of the #HIVHEROES Edition, I want to

make people understand that in dayto-day

dealings with it, HIV poses no

risk to anyone.

Living with HIV isn’t only taxing for

those of us who have it. My true heroes

are my son, my partner and my

parents, who have always stood by me

despite the struggles and supported

me through some hard times. If we all

managed to look beyond our own borders

once in a while, we could all be

heroes.

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