Straight from the heart: how I became an HIV activist

I was born in Barbados and we are, at heart, a very peaceful people. But as a child I heard people speak ill of individuals because of their ethnicity, religion, class, sexual orientation and HIV status.

Living in the Caribbean brings with it trials and beauties. I was born and raised in Barbados and although we are, at heart, a very peaceful people, there are a few in the bunch who wear the cloak of hate and turn a blind eye to serious social, religious, class, political and health issues.

As a child I heard people speak ill of individuals because of their ethnicity, religion, class, sexual orientation and HIV status. The ones who bore the brunt of the hate from this group were people who were living with HIV. They were sometimes excommunicated from their church or family, while people in the community would shout obscenities at them when they walked by.

According to UNAIDS, between 1,300 and 1,800 people were living with HIV in Barbados in 2012. This left a knot in the pit of my stomach and I knew that, as a Barbadian citizen, I had to help reduce this problem.

Becoming an HIV activist

I became an activist and began advocating for change when I was in college. I took this bold step because when I have children, and they become aware of the problems in our world, I want to let them know I was part of the solution, not the problem. I enrolled in an HIV peer education programme on campus, where students educate other students about the ramifications of risky sexual behavior and promoting good sexual health.

Being in that programme taught me many things, such as respecting human rights, being confident in your mission and never giving up on advocating for change. I have used what I have garnered from the group in assisting people living with HIV by creating the L.I.F.E. Newsletter. This calls for stigma and discrimination to be wiped out from my society, advocates for basic human rights to be acknowledged and pushes for a lower HIV prevalence, aiming for zero.

By becoming a key correspondent, my hope is to advocate for positive change and allow my life, my voice and my writing to show people living with HIV that behind every dark cloud there is a silver lining.

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