I believe that it’s possible for someone to co-exist with HIV, when on treatment, and to be happy in their own skin and satisfied with life.
When the First Edition of my book, HIV Happy, came out in 2015 there was some head scratching among the HIV community.
People who had never read the book made assumptions on what it was all about. Some who knew me personally said that I didn’t actually look very happy myself!
This leads me to guess pretty accurately when someone hasn’t actually read the book nor understands my message.
Firstly, allow me to provide some clarity on what I mean by ‘HIV Happy’: a former English teacher used to joke that, ‘Clichés should be avoided like the plague’. As a writer, I don’t like using clichés, but in this instance I shall: Don’t judge a book by its cover.
HIV Happy is unashamedly about self-sufficiency and what we living with the virus can do for ourselves.
‘We owe it to them to embrace the possibilities of a better future’
There will always be those who require the services provided by HIV organisations, but for those who base their identity purely on being HIV-positive, who wear HIV like a badge, who haven’t or will not adapt to the new future offered by effective treatment to manage the condition and who choose dependency, let me say that I believe this is doing a disservice to those who we have already lost to AIDS.
We owe it to them to embrace the possibilities of a better future and get on with our lives as best as we can. That doesn’t mean walking around laughing your head off all of the time. The primary concept of being ‘HIV Happy’ means a willingness to choose to co-exist with the virus without letting it define you as a person, holding you back from life and your dreams and making you thoroughly miserable.
It’s as simple as that.
The main purpose of my book is to help cultivate the emotional wellbeing of people living with HIV and to address internalised stigma, the way people living with the virus perceive themselves, their own lives, and the world around them.
There’s no ‘one-size-fits all’ approach to living with HIV and I hope that there’s still room for new ideas.
‘We are not victims’
I think there is, it’s just that sometimes it takes time for people to become used to them. I admit this book isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you are open to walking a road less travelled you may find it very useful. If you identify with these pointers then HIV Happy could be for you.
• We are not victims. If we made mistakes, we must take some responsibility and have the willingness to accept them. It’s a waste of our energy to replay ‘old movies’, wishing we had done things differently if what’s done is done and can’t be changed.
What should really concern us is today and the future. Life isn’t so much about what has happened in the past, or even finding out or understanding who we were, it’s about knowing who we are now and working towards who we would like to become.
• We have choices. We can choose to stay with what is familiar and not move on, to stay trapped by others and our own old and negative perceptions of what it is to be HIV-positive. Yet, there is an alternative.
Change is possible if we have the courage to choose it. There is a world of possibility and opportunity out there if we are willing to be open to it.
• Happiness comes from being grateful for what we have already in our lives and acknowledging it. We so often take what we already have for granted. It’s very possible that the things that could make us happy are already in our lives, when we recognize that they are there. It isn’t about reaching up for something, but simply reaching out.
• All you need to do today is make at least one refinement, however small, to create the change you desire. If you do that then you are a winner. It’s the seeds that we plant today that become the harvest of our individual futures and tomorrows.
• The most loving thing that you can do for yourself is to take your HIV meds and adhere to the regimen. Love yourself every day!
All of us who are not only living with HIV but surviving with it have a duty to those who didn’t make it before us to grasp the future and the second chance of life that treatment affords us. Your future is in your own hands now.
The Second Edition of HIV Happy is available from Amazon now.