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SELECTED EXTRACTS from POSITIVE

Preface

Being positive about being HIV-positive has probably been one of my saving graces over the last twenty years. Whilst I don’t subscribe to the view that you can defeat something like AIDS with affirmative thought alone, taking an optimistic view about your prognosis is an important ingredient in survival.


I have lived with HIV since the early 1980s, through a period when people were stigmatised by the media, right-wing politicians and church leaders, among others. Even some people in my own gay community, where I expected support, were frightened and unsure how to treat those of us who were willing to admit we were positive.
There was also trying time in the late eighties and early nineties, when so many friends were dying from AIDS that it seemed like we were experiencing a kind of holocaust, our own private war, with hundreds being cut down..
I developed my first AIDS-defining illness in 1989 and was given two to three years to live by my doctors. I have managed to survive for many years beyond this prognosis. Incredibly, I am now one of the longest surviving people with AIDS (as opposed to HIV) in the country.


There may be factors in my life and character that have helped in my approach to adversity. Certainly I think it has helped that I have been out as a gay man and a person with HIV. There is a stigma around HIV/AIDS, and I have sometimes wondered if this was a factor in the deterioration in the health of my positive peers.
But I don’t have a particular answer to explain my survival. I believe that a fortunate mix of luck, medical expertise and improved treatments, support from friends and family -- as well as an almost blind optimism on my part -- has helped me to stay alive and tell my story.


HIV/AIDS remains a problem in Australia today, with a recent small but significant rise in infections perhaps pointing to a sense of complacency about the disease. In many countries around the world, it has become an epidemic of catastrophic proportions. Only a massive change in political will can change the path of what is already one of the most devastating epidemics in world history.


I like to think that the stories of positive people will play a role in overturning the ignorance and bigotry often associated with HIV/AIDS. If in some way my story can help to keep the issue alive, or help others with their way forward in understanding or living with the virus, then it will have been worth the effort.

 

Extracts from 'Positive' copyright David Menadue 2003, Australia.


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