For the second time, I have participated as a guest speaker at the Western Visayas AIDS Congress. It was held at Kapis Mansions, Roxas City on October 29-31, 2012.
Since I have already shared last year about the “Channels of Hope” or CoH ministry that I am doing on HIV&AIDS through this NGO where I used to be connected, I talked about this time “Building a Supportive Community” as a person living with HIV through a bit of my testimony and experience.
The organizer who happens to be a very good friend of mine and also a sister in Christ has given me an specific task to challenge the PLHIV community to be partners and not just as beneficiaries of the HIV&AIDS initiatives operating in their areas. This is the reason why I have decided to talk about building a supportive community through disclosure of HIV status gradually in achieving a normal and fulfilling life despite of the HIV status.
Based on my personal experience, living with HIV can be normal again close to the normalcy I used to live before I got infected through taking a risk of revealing my HIV status to the community where I live especially when a situation calls for it. The community I am referring to is of course the PLHIV community, my family and friends, the people I am working with, the church where I grow spiritually, and now the Bible school where I go. These are where the people I have an encounter regularly and being out just enough in the open makes my life easier and normal without the fear of stigma and discrimination in case they get to know my HIV status. Perhaps I have this courage and confidence because of the trust and faith in Jesus that no matter what happens, He will never leave me nor forsake me. Pursuing and living my identity in God and cultivating a relationship with Him make this normal living possible.
Of course, I have mentioned that it will require a huge amount of audacity and time to be able to attain this knowing that there’s still HIV&AIDS-related stigma. But there’s no other way to have a truly fulfilling and normal life beyond HIV if I will continue to live in fear. In fact, next to God the reason why I am able to speak and share my experience before groups of people is because of these communities who have accepted, loved and continuously supporting and praying for me. Also, it made me a real “partner” and advocate of HIV&AIDS awareness and preventions program. I maybe a recipient of the existing HIV programs but I am also a partner.
Also I have shared with them that humans are created to be a relational being and this is the reason why we are constantly seeking friends, companions and partners in life. Since we are relational beings, it is impossible for us to live in isolation without getting despondent and lonesome. And building a real supportive community requires being true to our selves and only then we can all live positively and harmoniously in spite of the hardships, which are part of our earthly life for our growth as a person in a right relationship with our God. Yes, none of these are possible without entrusting our life to our Creator and living in faith, hope and love through obedience in Him.
I do not want to sound so spiritual but I cannot separate it anymore because whether we like it or not, we are also spiritual beings. If we are going to treat a person with HIV or any kind of sickness, it should be a holistic approach and not just addressing the physical, emotional, and social need of the person. It must include the spiritual that constitutes our whole being. Only then we can attain real healing.
So this was the challenge I have left to the HIV community present in the congress, to take risk in achieving a normal and fulfilling life beyond HIV through building a relationship with their supportive community.
During the congress, at the end of the session, we were able to visit Panay church and one of the biggest bell in Asia. After the event, I stayed in Antique where I got to enjoy the beauty of the sea near his house for a couple of days. And before the semester starts next week, I got the chance to visit a friend in Cebu where I stayed for three days to see some places such as the Taoist Temple, Mactan Shrine and food trip in the city.
What a week in the presence of God through all these blessings and events, truly He will always be there everywhere I go so thank you Lord so much.