Tag Archives: HIV blog

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.

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.

MY BEAUTY SALON EXPERIENCE…(IGNORANCE),THE TIME TO EDUCATE CAN HAPPEN WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT!

So yeah! I was looking forward to a nice relaxing day! Away from everything…just a place where they could pamper me…release some stress. YES! The beauty salon…yay…getting my hair done, my hands and feet done. Just time for little old me to get away from daily life…and of course, my job or mission never has a break.

I was laughing with the owner (my hairdresser) and other clients that were there (hearing their problems, yeah, a little gossip Tee hee…that btw I love), listening to music and feeling good about myself and the outcome of my beauty regimen…and then BAM! Here comes a young lady with a wig…the owner looked at her in shock, and whispered in my ear…’WOW! Maria she used to live with me…’ As I looked at this girl, I noticed when they took her wig off, that her hair was falling off…she was almost bald, her cheeks were sunken in, she was so pale and skinny.

I was like, Hmm, thinking to myself she looks like a meth head (I know I was guilty of judging) so I just continued with what I was doing. Another dresser put a treatment in her hair, made it look a little better and the young lady left. The owner made a comment very out loud to all of us there, clients and people that worked there. ‘She looks like she has AIDS.’ I said, ‘oh wow’ to myself…here we go…She continued, ‘OMG! Ewww what the hell happened to her! Man, I would be so scared to sleep with her or anyone she slept with…she looks so dirty!’

Here I am holding my tongue, but with such a big urge to speak my mind and educate…and remember I was there to pamper myself and RELAX! But that went out the window, of course…whoever knows me, knows I can’t hold my tongue :) .

So I said to the owner, ‘Let me ask you something, is that what you think AIDS looks like?’ She said ‘yeah.’ I said ‘Well you are so wrong…I have AIDS.’ She was in such shock, she said ‘No way, Maria!’ I said ‘Yep, I sure am for 20 years.’ you see true enough promiscuous people, iv drug users  just anyone that is high risk may be HIV positive, and it is your job to protect yourself. Funny thing this came from someone that actually sleeps around a lot! I told her listen don’t be fooled by people that look good in the outside or look beautiful…anyone that has unprotected sex once is at risk!

She was still trying to swallow what I just told her. She said, ‘I can’t believe you have AIDS, omg are you ok!?’

I said ‘Yes, I am, but what is important right now is not me..it is you, and you need to know that the ones you know that are promiscuous and look sick maybe HIV+ or use drugs and don’t take care of themselves… but people that are clean, beautiful, professionals, grandmothers, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons…ANYONE can have or get HIV! So next time you are going to have unprotected sex think of me…WHAT DOES HIV REALLY LOOK LIKE? Answer: ANYONE’.

So I know that day I left her and other strangers that I disclosed to with a thought…maybe a little more education :)

I also couldn’t help but think, Man, imagine if I was just recently diagnosed and people were making those comments about dirty, must have AIDS, Ewww, looks sick, so many things that mess with our mind! Hell, sometimes I look in the mirror and think, do I look sick!? But I am stronger now. I am not going to lie! It affects me when people make those comments…but I dust myself off and continue! But a person that is not in that place yet, might feel dirty, low, sick, shame…and it will make them not want to disclose and come out of the HIV closet.

This is ignorance and lack of education. For anyone out there that has gone through this, or overheard comments like this from family, friends, co workers etc etc..I wan’t you to know..yes, I know it makes us feel bad, but you will learn as the years pass that when we intercept a conversation like that and put a different face to AIDS…not only may we change their minds and the stigma, but we also help people with our disclosure in protecting themselves.

I know that it can also backfire and there will be ignorant people everywhere that may not want to deal with us anymore! But it’s their loss…NO MORE SHAME! We are not dirty! We are warriors! People that are dealing with not only an illness, but the stigma that comes with it! And I can only hope for one day any of you that are in hiding can feel as free as I am starting to feel now :)

I am going to end this blog with a quote from Ryan White’s mother! She used to tell him, son keep your head up! And recently she sent a message to people living with HIV/AIDS and said, ‘KEEP YOUR CHINS UP.’

Love and Light as always!

until the next time…

~Maria~

 

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

Not everyone is an Activist

 

YES! Not everyone is an activist! And we must respect this…not all people are prepared to come out of their HIV closet because others want them too! They are not less than anyone..many of them are still dealing with the shame that comes with the illness. Or they are trying to protect their family members…. especially when there is so much ignorance and stigma with HIV/AIDS.We have to respect other peoples’ choices and views! We are their role models …so if we have it in us to be activists and advocate, let us do that for those that don’t feel prepared or ready yet! Or maybe they will never be! And it’s not because they don’t want to fight for the cause! You see, that is where people get it so wrong! Just go back to when you were not disclosing! There is nothing someone could have told you or me that would have made us come out! You go through cycles! That is why we had the Larry Kramers and Ryan Whites that helped us so much in this cause! Yes! HIV/AIDS is being minimized and not really talked about as much! And we (the ones that are ready ) must advocate!Educate and STOMP on stigma! And when it is time for us to retire ..maybe those who looked at our blogs, speeches, vlogs, twitter, facebook will contine!I want people that are not ready to come out of the HIV closet or be an activist to know that it’s ok! You are not a coward! How I was told, some people were being called out by someone on facebook that is an activist! And maybe in her ignorance or desperation wanted everyone to show their faces! NO! It’s not that simple!No one has the right to force you into anything! Just learn from us! and many of us are fighting in our own way to get the word out. Keep on learning from our stories! There will be a time that will come where saying I am HIV positive will be like saying I have diabetes ! I really hope! In the meantime keep yourselves healthy! And take your meds! This is most important! So we can be ready for when the cure comes. :) :) I really pray and hope it happens in my lifetime. ♥♥

 

Love and Light, Maria T Mejia

 

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)

Macramé Stone Bracelets in All Red

We now carry the Macramé Stone Adjustable Bracelets in all Red!

Make a bold statement for National HIV Testing Day on June 27 with these stunning bracelets.  1 in 5 HIV+ people do not know they are infected because they have not been tested.  Don’t wait; GET TESTED.

And help raise awareness about the importance of Getting Tested.  Wearing The Bracelet makes a powerful statement that you have been tested and invites others to Join the Conversation, because one of the greatest risks of HIV/AIDS today is too many people believe it is no longer a problem.

Macramé Stone Adjustable Bracelets -$5.00

These stricking bracelets are made using the macramé technique which involves hand knotting the cord to create unique designs. The knots hold the stone in place securely, and the cord is waxed, making it very hard wearing and long lasting.
The center stone is an oval white with an embossed ribbon.
Adjustable; fits 6″ – 11.5″ wrists. Perfect for all ages and sizes!

Increase awareness, compassion, understanding, and responsibility

Until There’s A Cure

My Body May Feel Weak Sometimes, but My Spirit Always Pulls Me Through

(But even sometimes my spirit has a limit!!)

Sometimes I feel like I can’t continue. I feel that the energy gets low. This is normal to me … it has always been like this. Ever since I was a teen I had this fear that I had to live every moment to the extreme. This is a good thing, but it can be a bad thing also for people living with HIV or any disease — and even for someone who is healthy.

I think what happens to me is that I live on a constant roller coaster. Ever since I changed my eating habits and practice forgiveness — trying to be in the light and send light to others that may not have love for me — it’s getting better. But as many of us know, we have good days and not so good days … and sometimes I suffer from fatigue and I HATE HATE HATE to feel fatigued!!! Just being there doing nothing … I know I am a very hyperactive person and I am a high energy person. Even if I am laying down trying to relax or even meditating, my mind always tries to roam somewhere on the things I have to do. So basically when my body shuts down, I push it with my spirit! I refuse to let my body control my spirit, but I am learning that I have to balance everything and not go from one extreme to another!

It’s OK if we don’t get to do everything we planned to do today … there is always tomorrow.

 

It’s OK to just be lazy and not do anything. It’s OK to say NO to others when you don’t have anything to even give yourself! Because in the end, if you get sick or overwhelmed, you won’t be able to give ANYTHING to anyone … including yourself.

I am learning to try and not stress on the future … the what ifs … the future is not promised! Our past is gone, so I want to live for today! But here is where it gets tricky for me: LIVE TODAY TO THE FULLEST, BUT NOT WITH THE ANXIETY THAT THERE WON’T BE A TOMORROW. So yes, my spirit is strong as hell! Yes, I am a strong woman! But even the strong fall.

I don’t want to fall. I want to continue on living healthy and having that perfect balance. So even though many years have passed living with this virus, I am still in cycles with it … or maybe I am just getting older and wiser … I don’t know.

I just know that every time I get up and feel 100% healthy, I try to do it all … live it all, but then the time comes when my body says: Maria, slow down or I will make you slow down! So what does my stubborn self do? Push myself to the limit. That is why I know that my spirit is stronger than my body and mind!

I believe that is why when I am emotionally sad or I feel my spirit weak is when I have felt the sickest and this is like a vicious cycle. I hate to feel sick, but I make myself sick taking my body to the limit. So then I find myself laying in bed, not feeling well..thinking too much! And BAM! My spirit stumbles. So I can’t do this to myself anymore!!!

I need to step back and relax and breathe … really enjoy life and the days I am feeling 100%. Sometimes I also think that I do this to myself because I feel that I want to take advantage of feeling strong. I don’t know.

I also have to accept that I am HUMAN … and that we don’t feel 100% all the time! HIV negative people get sick also. They get low on energy also! I have to stop being so hard on myself and my body … even if my spirit always pulls me through.

I have sat and thought — and even friends that observe me have noticed — that I don’t rest how I should. I think I am resting … but am I? Really, let’s think about it … do we really rest our bodies and mind?

Maybe this is one of the reasons that I have been undetectable for more than 11 years and my T cells never go up more than 399 … never ever! Even though I don’t get sick or hospitalized (thank God), this is causing a form of stress in me that I have learned to live with all my life!

So this woman will try and chill and relax. I hope if someone can relate to this, you will also do the same.

There is always tomorrow. Enjoy today, but with measure … hold your loved ones … take time to walk, to watch your favorite show, to share with your family … just put yourself first! There is always tomorrow! And if tomorrow never comes, at least you will leave this life knowing you gave your best and lived the best you could without pushing yourself.

So yes, my SPIRIT pulls me through, and I am thankful for this! But I want spirit, mind, body and soul in harmony as one.

Love and Light,
Maria T Mejia

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

Donate a Gift in Tribute to Mom

 Friend, Family, and Supporters —

We all have amazing women in our lives who give us strength and encouragement, and sometimes on Mother’s Day, no matter what we do to pay tribute to them, it never seems like enough.

This year, we would like to invite you to donate a gift in tribute to that special person or persons in your life. There are 16 million HIV+ Mother’s and Daughter’s worldwide in need of urgent care services.   Donate to the Educate a Woman, Educate a Nation project to honor someone important in your life and send an Ecard to them, informing them of the donation.  It’ll mean a lot to your loved one.

Join us in wishing Mother’s around the world a happy Mother’s Day.