When somebody gets infected with HIV, it affects the entire family and very frequently also the surrounding community. All too often we tend to forget this and what happens is that the family members of the HIV+ person are missed out on in the process and not listened to enough. Their voices get lost along the way.
Within my own family, HIV has been the cause of a lot of tension over the years. As I did not want to speak about my condition and did not allow anyone else to do so either, I was blocking any ventilation gateway that they may have needed. After ten long years, I have finally realised that my father and mother and each of my sisters and brothers had been dealing with their emotions in their own way, unable to express themselves. They had a personal story that deserved to be heard, but because of the shame that had overtaken me almost completely, things were left unspoken.
It has taken us a very long time, but at the end of the month of July this year, for the first time in ten years, we were able to sit down together, with the nine of us, to talk about HIV. It was a beautiful and liberating moment for all of us. We created a space to tell our individual stories, express our own feelings and listen to each other without judgment. What seemed once as wishful thinking and an obstacle impossible to overcome, has finally become reality. HIV is no longer a topic of silence, division, tension or pain; it has redefined us as a family, making all of us stronger.
My family is fully supporting me in this campaign and by doing so, we all hope to inspire other families with HIV positive family members to openly talk about HIV as a way to reduce ignorance, increase understanding and appreciate the emotions each person is going through when dealing with this virus.
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