Tag Archives: HIV activist

Robin Barkins: My Story

Robin Barkins My name is Robin Barkins. I was first diagnosed with HIV at age 15 – just 4 months before my 16th birthday. When I first heard the news, I instantly thought my life was over. I refused all HIV treatment. I began to use drugs heavily and I slept around with different men and women without disclosing my status. I was angry at the world and I wanted everyone to feel my pain.

For 10 years I did a lot of demoralizing things. I kept my status a secret from the world; I even kept it from my own mother. After 10 years of running from my problems, using drugs and drinking alcohol; I began to get tired of the way I was living my life. I decided to go into treatment.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought that going to treatment would be the beginning of a new and improved life for me. I began to face my problems and fears head on and I found some coping skills in the process. These were skills I could use in case a problem came my way – I now have a better way to deal with these issues instead of running to get high.

I surrendered totally as far as my health was concerned and I began to start loving myself. I decided that my story could help others. While in treatment, I began to share my story which gave other people hope. In the process, it helped me as well.

I am currently 3 years sober, and my goal is to help women and men who are suffering with substance abuse and HIV. I want to give them hope and let them know they are not alone.

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Embarrassment

Embarrassment.

An Opportunistic Infection by Mwaganu wa Kaggia

I am embarrassed to talk about SEX
So I avoid talking to my children
I giggle and laugh nervously
Whenever the word SEX is mentioned
I am too embarrassed to look up

In the age of HIV/AIDS
My embarrassment continues
About SEX, AIDS and CONDOMS
I am even afraid to read about the disease
I am so embarrassed

Now, I am at a loss
My daughter, my son,
my husband and I have AIDS
We have never talked about SEX and AIDS
Even when we knew better
We were too embarrassed
Too embarrassed to protect ourselves
Too embarrassed to keep DEATH at bay

Now I am too embarrassed
To let anyone know about us
My FAMILY and AIDS
Then one day
My mother opened my eyes
She said, ” Your family is not dying of AIDS
It is dying of embarrassment,
A deadly OPPORTUNISTIC INFECTION”

Today, we are no longer sick with embarrassment
We know better
That noone ever died of embarrassment
But DAILY, a loved one dies of AIDS.

By Mwaganu wa Kaggia-8-26-94

Source: http://www.whatifitwereyou.org/resources.html

Letter to HIV. The Other Face of Living with HIV.

Maria not only video blogs, but she also does most of them in both English and Spanish so she can help raise awareness with as many people as possible!

LETTER TO HIV. THE OTHER FACE OF LIVING WITH HIV CARTA PARA EL VIH. LA OTRA CARA DE VIVIR CON EL VIRUS

Maria’s Letter to HIV:

Hey HIV,

I want to say so many things to you — maybe curse at you, maybe tell you how much you hurt my body, mind and soul.

You have lived inside of me since I was 16 years old! You thought you were going to destroy me didn’t you? As you did to so many friends and people that were family!

You thought, Oh she has always been told she’s a nothing and will never amount to nothing … so she might just take her own life, destroy it with drugs or destroy others by giving it on purpose out of hate and bitterness. But no!!!!! You never won, never will win!

Because I am one of those people that have been through it all, and still manage to have a pure soul and good spirit. So you actually helped me. Thank you HIV … Thank you from the bottom of my heart because you actually formed me and changed the little girl and teenager that was full of hate, an uncompassionate, angry kid that didn’t have any direction but to do bad things, and felt so worthless that she had to find the worst to feel the best! That is why I joined that gang: because I felt that I actually was going to have a family after all! Until you found, or I let, the opportunity for you to come and invade my blood.

I always felt I would die, max, by the age of 28. It was written that someone with HIV/AIDS wouldn’t live for more than 10 years!

You actually saved my life … because of you, HIV, I am alive and loving myself and my body more. Because of you I met my partner and some wonderful people in this journey we call life! 23 years have passed and I always describe it as a murderer living with you that is finding every opportunity to kill you. You are a sneak and very smart! But I am smarter than you are, HIV. I have managed to dodge death many times because of my human instincts. You have destroyed my immune system to make me weak and vulnerable.

Enough!!! Leave me the fuck alone bitch!

I am tired of you and being your poster child, just because I am trying to go out there and show my pretty face to save the youth or anyone who wants to listen.

I can’t wait until they kill you, and you leave all of us alone!

So many people have suffered because of you, HIV. You should feel like a cornered animal that is about to get smashed! And that time is coming soon! How does it feel huh?

Just because it took something as nasty as you to change my self-worth doesn’t mean you are important! Because you are not.

30 years of dealing with you! Of you killing our brothers and sisters, making so many suffer not only physically but mentally.

Hey HIV, I know that just by someone protecting themselves you can’t come in. But you see some people still don’t get it. They think living with you is freaking easy!

I am tired of taking toxic pills because of you!

I am tired of getting so many tubes of blood taken every 3 to 4 months because of you!

I am tired of thinking, Is my medication still working? Am I developing resistance???

Tired, tired, tiredddddddddddddddd of you, HIV!

Get the Hell away from all of us! We don’t want you or need you to make us feel worth something, or to feel we have a purpose! We can find other things in life besides you, HIV!!!

And I believe this life sentence, or life on parole, of living with you is going to end soon.

I just hope your friends, the ones that have made billions and billions on us, will have the humanity and instead of making better medication so you and we can live in more harmony together, they can find something to get you the Hell out of my being, HIV.

You are not welcomed here! Never were, never will be! And I will fight you until my last breath.

And again I am sorry for whoever is reading this and has to read this cursing. But you. HIV/AIDS … you are a bitch! You will always be a bitch and that will never change!

Always remember, everyone: One mistake and HIV will live with you forever. :( You don’t want that.

So please: Test yourself, protect yourself and love yourself!

Don’t be one more statistic.

Love and light to you all … not you, HIV!

Maria T. Mejia

June 27: National HIV Testing Day! GET TESTED. KNOW YOUR STATUS.
Visit www.hivtest.org to find a HIV Testing Site near you. Many Testing sites offer FREE HIV TESTING.

This article was cross-posted from “A Girl Like Me,” a program of The Well Project and TheBody.com. Subscribe to her YouTube channel MariasJournal (and ours, while you’re at it! UntilTheresACure)

Knowledge is Power

BY KATIE OLSEN

One of the most important issues revolving around the HIV/AIDS crisis I have discovered while working with Until There’s A Cure is the education of the virus itself. This paired with diminished public consciousness has raised great concerns within the AIDS community regarding the awareness of the disease and, with the economy compromised, it has forced many organizations to switch their focus from fundraising to awareness raising. This ability to adapt to economic, political, and social undulations is extremely important to the success of a particular organization’s mission. While, from its inception, UTAC has primarily focused on granting funds they must now turn their efforts to educating the public, which will hopefully, stimulate a dialogue about the disease in order to work towards the goal of eradicating the virus. By reminding the public of the harsh realities of HIV/AIDS, that it still exists, there is still no cure and that every individual is still at risk there is a hope that people will place more efforts into understanding the seriousness of the disease and begin to work again to help complete the fight against AIDS.

Despite various non-profit and government driven efforts to encourage testing and the practice of safe sex and/or drug injection statistics will show that HIV infections continue to rise meaning humans continue to spread the disease. Whether this is due to lack of education or the human tendency to neglect proper health practices is hard to judge. Regardless, I am disappointed every time I hear of someone (especially when I know they have some kind of education regarding sexually transmitted diseases) having a “pregnancy scare” because they didn’t use protection, as though a baby would be the worst outcome. As humans we make mistakes and some of us are fortunate to learn from them while surviving somewhat unscathed; however, that shouldn’t relinquish our responsibility to our fellow human beings or ourselves. Nonetheless, the question rises of how do we better educate the people of our nation? One of the largest demographics at risk for contracting HIV is adolescents and due to the stigmas surrounding the virus and its transmission there are difficulties presented regarding how to approach proper education. How does an organization teach youth about safe sex and drug use without promoting either? How does an organization use our nation’s children to help spread that education? Especially when one takes into consideration the influence and power of religious and conservative thought. These are only some of the challenges organizations face just to equip people with the proper knowledge of caring for themselves and others and, ultimately, putting a stop to the spread of one of human history’s most deadly viruses. If people can abandon the negative associations that have become synonymous with HIV/AIDS we can begin talk a little more freely about stopping the spread of it. A vaccine might be years or decades away but if we can approach the virus intelligently and courageously, without fear and hesitation maybe we can suppress its force. Until There’s A Cure has established this from the beginning with the bracelet and although the focus of their undertaking has had to shift slightly they can still use this piece of jewelry as a tool to prompt conversation, a reminder of the overwhelming spread of HIV and hopefully a means to end AIDS.

Olympian Greg Louganis

Greg Louganis is one of the most successful Olympic divers ever to grace the games, with 4 gold medals and countless other titles in international games. In the 1988 Olympics he hit his head on the diving board and suffered from a concussion, yet still qualified with the highest score on his next dive. Greg Louganis demonstrated his greatest level of courage, however, when he came out as gay in 1994 and announced that he was HIV positive to the public. Greg Louganis serves not only as a role model to divers and to all athletes, but to a whole community of people stigmatized for being gay and for being infected with HIV. Thanks to Greg’s courage, we are one step closer to breaking down stereotypes, and inspired to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Happy Father’s Day!

Father’s Day is quickly approaching and what better gift for Dad than the gift that increases awareness, compassion, understanding, and responsibility.

 

Our signature cuff-style bracelet made in Italy.
Silver Plate ($25), Stainless Steel Graphite Tone ($50), Stainless Steel ($50), Sterling Silver ($95), Sterling Silver w/ 18k Ribbon ($125)

For the Modern Dad…

The Orphan Bracelet handcrafted out of recycled rubber and accented with recycled (lead free) copper, aluminum, and bronze to support orphans affected by HIV/AIDS at the DO Ubuntu orphanage in South Africa.
$15 or 3 for $40
The Aluminium Bracelets, made in the USA from recycled Aluminum and engraved with “UNTIL”.
Brick Red, Dark Blue or Pewter Grey: $10

 

HIV and Love

Love, how beautiful it is! This is so important for people living with HIV/AIDS…to have someone who loves you for you and can see past the illness, that is if they are negative..I am very blessed that after all these years of being positive and thinking way back ( I WILL NEVER MARRY), I have been blessed with such a loving and caring partner. :) She is a key element in my health, believe it or not! When you are loved and cared for..your heart and soul fills up inside. You are happier and feel complete, all these things make your immune system go up..and it is not only the love of your partner, wife, husband..it comes from anyone that shows you love and cares for you! A friend, your family…even strangers…people just don’t know how important it is to love and be loved for us. My partner, Lisa, would be the first one to say she was part of the ignorance, of course until I came along…

It is not easy to disclose your HIV status, but I guess I have a method to my madness :) if you want to call it that way. Almost all my life I have been with HIV negative partners…only one positive and that was actually my worst  relationship..although we learn from good and bad relationships. My method is to get to know the person first and feel them out…if you see things are getting deep, and I mean spiritually and mentally, you must disclose and give them the opportunity to choose. It is not an easy thing to do..I get so scared! I guess the fear of rejection or having someone you connect to on so many levels and maybe they can’t deal with the situation..which is also very valid. My situation was, WOW! I found my soul mate after all these years..I feel so much for this person..now I have to tell her about me! everything about me! oh my god! what if she rejects me,or stops talking to me…Well, I said to myself, you are a strong woman! Tell her! And make her feel comfortable either way! So I actually disclosed through our chats in the computer lol..I guess easier being rejected in the computer than in person! I have to be honest, I beat around the bush like for an hour!

“Lisa I have something very serious to say about me before we move forward!!” Oh my! I just couldn’t type the words at that moment..

She would reply, “Tell me! I dont care what it is!”

I answered, “Well it something very very serious…” and I was driving her insane! cause I just couldn’t say it ! I was thinking OMG Maria say it and get it over with! But how sad to know we are in love and I might lose her today! so I wrote: I AM HIV POSITIVE .. but of course I did not click send yet! I paused and said ”ok Lisa here it goes!” and I clicked ‘send’..I felt like throwing up..anxious..Everythingggggg..

She paused for a second and said “OK , and?” “So,” I said, “that is my secret..”

She responded, “I don’t care I already love you!” I told her “If you have any questions, I would be more than glad to answer them…” She responded “If I do, I will ask you!”

So I was like, wow! Still felt I might be putting her in the spot! So I said, “You know, if you need time to think or just want to be friends I am ok with that also..” She responded “NO! I love you!” Those were the sweetest words to my ears! All my fears were gone! Finally, my soul mate knew everything about me..it is such a wonderful moment! You feel so free. :)  So we continued to chat for hours and she said jokingly, “My god, I thought you were going to tell me you were a man, or a murderer, or that you had child you gave up..” lol ..so this is part of my story of  Love. :)

It has been 4 years since this event..we are happily married and going strong. :) Recently we both did the My AIDS campaign.

My campaign is “My HIV, My strength.” and Lisa’s is “My partner, My commitment!” How beautiful is that! And by this, she is exposing herself to the stigma, as an HIV-negative person being with a positive person! But guess what! She doesn’t care what people think! She is supportive, compassionate, loving, and I am blessed to be a part of her life! I have told her if me finding a cure meant having to leave you, I would choose living with you because living with you is my happiness…which is ultimately what we as human beings are looking for! Being straight, gay, bi whatever! It doesn’t matter…WE ALL NEED TO LOVE AND BE LOVED :) ! As we both have said from the start… IN IT TILL THE END :)

Lisa Laing, this blog is dedicated to you!

With all my soul

Maria T Mejia

This article was cross-posted from “A Girl Like Me,” a program of The Well Project and TheBody.com.