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A Girl Like Me is moving!

June 29, 2014

Dear friends,

new AGLM_blog_logo_small

It has always been a long-term goal of The Well Project to have all of our online resources in one place, so as to be able to combine information with real world experiences and connections. The technology of our new website has finally allowed us to reach that milestone. Therefore, we have recently migrated the entire A Girl Like Me blog onto The Well Project website and will soon be closing down this blog site and redirecting the www.girllikeme.org URL to the A Girl Like Me section on our website. We have already closed down comments on this blog, but comments can be made on the blogs posted to the website.

Q:        What does this mean for the A Girl Like Me blog?

A:        Ultimately, everything will remain intact. All of the blogs and comments have been transferred to The Well Project’s site, except for a few comments that were posted immediately after the transition. To ensure that we don’t lose any more of your valuable comments, we have closed down comments on this website and ask you to make any comments to blogs on the new website.

Q:        Will I continue to receive email notifications of new blogs?

A:        If you are currently subscribed to this blog and receiving email notifications, this will stop when we close down this blog. In order to receive notifications, please sign up to become a member of The Well Project website if you are not already (a simple process). Then, you can either “follow” individual bloggers (by going to their profile and clicking the “follow” button on their page) to receive email notifications when they have posted a new blog or “follow” the A Girl Like Me group, which will provide you with email notifications for all new blogs posted.

Q:        Why was it important to move the blog?

A:        Having all of our resources in one place will allow our users to have access to both information about HIV (including treatment, side effects, and related issues) and  a community of support through the blogs and other community features, such as groups and forums. For example, if you do a search on “stigma” on our new website, you will find both fact sheets and blogs that relate to HIV stigma. The website also reaches a larger audience (over one million visitors annually), so it will increase the reach of the blogs as well!

We hope that you will find this integration of The Well Project’s comprehensive information on women and HIV (over 120 up-to-date fact sheets!) and the online community support resources as exciting as we do! We believe it will not only strengthen and grow our community, but it will also further fulfill our mission of changing the course of the HIV/AIDS pandemic through a unique and comprehensive focus on women and girls.

Together, we can change the course of the HIV epidemic…one woman at a time.  

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Please note, we are disabling comments at this time, as we are moving these blogs over to The Well Project website. You can leave comments for this blog at its new home here.

Full Steam Ahead!

August 14, 2014

Sonya posted a new blog, Full Steam Ahead!, on A Girl Like Me’s Voices from our Allies:

It’s amazing how you can be going hard for your cause, and then all of a sudden you have to stop, regroup, and get refocused! That’s exactly what just recently happened to me. Standing tall, strong, and determined….against all Stigma and against all odds. It just didn’t matter to me if you wanted to talk about HIV/AIDS, hear about it, or be about it….you were going to hear something that hopefully you would share in your travels.

The reality is that people are not talking about it, nor are they wearing the “red ribbon”. I remember a young lady asked me why I was wearing a red ribbon, and wanted to know what type of cancer that color was for? To my amazement and shock, I captured an educational moment that I am sure she didn’t sign up for, but I was happy to oblige!

So many people are choosing to ignore the details and information about HIV; I am beginning to think that the world has lost their minds! Well, I took a deep breath, and planted my heels in the ground. I have to keep moving forward. I can’t stop, and won’t stop. we are too close to the CURE!

#fullsteamahead

Please note, we are disabling comments at this time, as we are moving these blogs over to The Well Project website. You can leave comments for this blog at its new home here.

A message from The Well Project Founder, Dawn Averitt – You can help!

August 13, 2014

Dawn AverittThis is the final week of the #OperationGirl Charity Challenge and we’re trying to raise as much money as possible for our organization to help us continue to provide access to life-saving and life-enhancing information and resources to millions of women and girls living with HIV around the globe.

Please see my message below on how you can help us win an extra $5000 by obtaining the greatest number of individual donations (not dollars) between now and August 18th!

To help us win this last Bonus Challenge, please Click Here and give what you can and consider sharing the link with your family and friends as well. Any amount will help.

Together we can change the course of the HIV epidemic…one woman at a time.

Please note, we are disabling comments at this time, as we are moving these blogs over to The Well Project website. You can leave comments for this blog at its new home here.

Intercepting the Package…

August 11, 2014

Sonya posted a new blog, Intercepting the Package…, on A Girl Like Me’s Voices from our Allies:

I just want you to know, we truly tried to keep that package from you by intercepting the gift of HIV with education, condoms, and testing. We thought if we kept the stats of transmission, and the rate of STIs in your face, and the sounds of protection echoed in your ears, along with the names of STDs, you would be more inclined to reach for that condom before you reached for that flesh. Understanding it is a choice, but adamant about continuing to scream bloody murder because there were still predators running rampant who wanted to intentionally devour your internal soul with HIV!

It isn’t always easy. Sometimes our words fall on deaf ears and shallow hearts, but the key is to continue talking until we are all talked out. Hopefully, it will be when there is a CURE!

#lifeofanactivist

Please note, we are disabling comments at this time, as we are moving these blogs over to The Well Project website. You can leave comments for this blog at its new home here.

Domestic Violence/Abuse

July 25, 2014

Jo3“What kind of a mother are you,” screamed a lady, “who can’t even take care of a baby…sleeping all the time…kaamchor (lazy asshole)…keeping a babysitter, cook and maid…you can’t even handle household chores or a husband, not to even speak of mothering a baby.”

“Look, I will pay for your medication as and when I can, or else find a job to help support yourself”, said a man. “I have to spend money on bills, my parents’ treatments, as well as my personal expenses.”

“You need to adhere strictly to your medication, Jyoti”, warned a family doctor. “The way you are taking it, neither on time, nor everyday, can put you at risk. Please give your health the top priority – or else you will succumb to the virus and go into a second line which will then be more expensive than the present one you are taking now.”

All these voices rang in my ears…screaming mother-in-law, irresponsible husband and concerned doctor. I was putting my life at risk. If there was something I had to do, then it was only I who could get things done – instead of depending on others, irrespective of the consequences or the result.

My Viral Load count was not so good with detectable levels and my CD4 count lingered between 300-400. I needed to fight back. I love life, and even if that meant I might lose some part of me, which I might or might not get back, what mattered now was to live. And LIVE I did – though I LOST something in return.

Looking back, I have NO REGRETS. I signed the divorce papers after I found that he was in love with someone else, planning and preparing to get me out of the way so as to marry the girl. Moreover I divorced him because I felt that he found spending money on my medication was of “no value” – I say this because despite the doctor’s repeated advice, he failed to provide me with what I needed the most. And my life was at stake!! I went out in search of a job, that too outstation, leaving my child behind under the care of a babysitter, which resulted in my mother-in-law hating and verbally abusing me and my husband finding this an excuse to call off the marriage completely. No matter how hard I tried to save it, it was beyond repair. Therefore to “gain” my life, I “lost” a home, family and my child.

6 years later:

  • Undetectable Viral Load
  • CD4 count between 600-700
  • Happily re-married to HIV-negative partner who provided a loving home and great in-laws

One thing void in my heart is my child – who is now all grown up – an 8-year-old intelligent boy. I doubt if he even remembers his “real” mother – but when the time comes, I will see him too.

Please note, we are disabling comments at this time, as we are moving these blogs over to The Well Project website. You can leave comments for this blog at its new home here.

It’s All Good In the Hood!

July 22, 2014

MelPaintercroppedIt’s been a while. Lots has happened! And I’m just about to embark on a 3 week working holiday road trip and then a stay at KPS Trebullom so thought it’s time to catch up and share. It’s all good in the hood! In May I got great blood results – CD4 726 VL 457 – and completed another 21 day HIV meditation project with new friends made and great feedback received. I also started dating…yeah that’s kinda why I haven’t written for a while, that and my two daughters’ exams, prom, performances, birthday and boyfriend/girlfriend celebrations and commiserations!

So this is where the unique problems of living with HIV really hit home. With the chance of romance comes the fear around disclosure. I did write a whole blog discussing the pros and cons, when, where, and how, and I asked on the forums. I basically stopped seeing him because I couldn’t face it! That seems a lifetime ago and I can’t find the word document where I originally vented and ranted, which is probably good as it does all seem irrelevant now, but those fears of rejection and being judged were so strong. I haven’t shared my status to many and it hasn’t always been well received. Sometimes initially it seems ok and then cracks reveal themselves. Like a ‘good’ friend who is supportive, but actually I’m not welcome to play with her child; a lover who is ok until a condom breaks and the reality of PrEP proves too difficult; or another response: “Wow, I appreciate you sharing that. I feel closer to you now,” and then they never stay to eat or drink tea in your house again.

Recently though I had a wonderful experience of sharing my status and I took a lot of courage from that. At Bruce Lipton’s talk with ‘alternatives’, a fellow healer was surprised to see me there in the big city. He knew I ran a local meditation group as he gave me advise when I first started, and he began talking about all the wonderful work he was now doing in London and how he used to work nearby with PLWHIV. I said, “Oh, did you know I’m HIV+?” so matter of fact it was brilliant! He physically stepped back, but more out of shock than of fear, and I could see him reevaluating me. The table turned. Now he wanted to know more about what I did and was fascinated! I explained some of how the ‘Biology of Belief’ had helped me, then the lecture continued, and I sat back in my seat with a wonderful feeling of satisfaction for being brave and receiving more than just compassion – it was more like awe!  My disclosure meant that in his eyes I was more than just a woman dabbling in healing techniques. I was living proof that these ‘alternatives’ work!

Anyway, to my now ‘official’ boyfriend BRM, he’s a Bicycle Repair Man, and we met over a puncture! He asked me out for a drink, which after became a date, and then we got kissing. Then it became more dates and more kissing, and then I started to fall for him so I needed to tell him. It’s all about how you frame it, just mention it in casual conversation, find out what he knows first. All wonderful advice, but in the end I went for dropping the bomb. “I have something I need to tell you…”

I couldn’t do it lighthearted because my heart was heavy. No matter how much I told myself, “If he rejects me it’s his loss,” I really wanted him to respond well. I really liked him and although my gut was saying it’s going to be ok, just do it, my mind was on overdrive.  His initial response was, “Are you ill?” and his eyes showed concern not fear. “No, I’m healthy, I’m fine,” I replied, and then started my spiel about slow progressor, natural suppressor and all the science, and then he kissed me! “I don’t need to know all that,” he said. “You’re well and we’re ok. That’s enough. I trust you.”

Wow! So since then when I’ve got some spare time I’ve been sending texts and meeting up. I’ve being proudly shown off, taken out for dinner, and generally been having a great time! I think finally there might be a fairytale ending. Time will tell if he is a true prince, but at the moment he ain’t no frog in my eyes!

Please note, we are disabling comments at this time, as we are moving these blogs over to The Well Project website. You can leave comments for this blog at its new home here.

 

Facing Facebook

July 21, 2014

Kate image Hope TatooAs I was sitting by the pool watching my son and nephew splash and play I saw my phone light up, alerting me to a notice on Facebook.  I opened the notice and read a message that had been posted on my wall.  A Facebook friend whom I had recently friended had posted on my wall that she would be attending an HIV conference near me.

A very benign message in and of itself…but for someone who is not very public about HIV status…I had a moment of panic.  I felt myself blushing and I felt my breathing change.  I went to delete the comment as quickly as possible.  Maybe no one would notice?

But then I stopped.  I thought for a moment…why am I so ashamed?  Why am I so embarrassed?  I’m simply giving in to the stigma.  So I texted my sister for support (she’s my best friend and source of reason).  Luckily my sister was supportive and encouraged me to leave the comment posted on my Facebook wall.

Nothing about the comment said “Hey…you have HIV.”  Yet, I had been terrified of being ‘outed’ to all of my Facebook friends and family.  But stigma did not win this time.  The fear of rejection did not win.   I won…and HIV won.

Simply mentioning HIV brings awareness.  Hopefully, as I become more comfortable in my role as an HIV activist, I will bring more awareness and acceptance to a disease which carries such stigma.

Please note, we are disabling comments at this time, as we are moving these blogs over to The Well Project website. You can leave comments for this blog at its new home here.

Surviving into an unknown age

July 14, 2014

square sologirlWho will teach the nursing home staff that HIV infected elders are not terrible dirty people? Who will teach them, educate them and instill some compassion and kindness into them? How will we be treated as elders in our twilight years? It’s coming, for so many of us who were told we had 6 months to live. Now it’s 25 years later and I am left to wonder, ponder and worry about the people who will tend to our needs as we start losing the ability to tend to them ourselves.

I already lost the opportunity to attend college and get a degree because my college fund was squandered away by its financial guardian when I was declared terminally ill at 18. Now the aging is my top concern. I didn’t think I was going to make it this far.

Will we be put in a separate community? The non positive elders won’t want to share their space with us I am sure, and their family and friends won’t like it either. Why would it be any different when we are old and defenseless? Helplessly dependent on someone else, likely a stranger with minimal training, no different than it is now when we are in the medical community and the doctors and nurses are not properly trained.

Honestly, I have this idea in my head but I have no idea how to make it happen. To save us from dying in shame and discrimination as most of us have lived our lives so far. I would really like to age and die in peace amongst like people and properly trained caretakers. So somehow if we could purchase estates around the country and get to training people now and setting up maintenance trust funds for the facilities then we may have a chance at a peaceful ending to this journey.

The bottom line is: what will happen to me and my HIV sisters that are surviving to our soon to be “Golden” years…when our voices aren’t as loud and strong as they are now, who will speak up on our behalf?

Please note, we are disabling comments at this time, as we are moving these blogs over to The Well Project website. You can leave comments for this blog at its new home here.