Give me a kiss to build a dream on
And my imagination will thrive upon that kiss
Sweetheart, I ask no more than this
A kiss to build a dream on
Sometimes we have dreams and expectations. Sometimes we achieve them. Sometimes we only dream of doing one thing, then do something entirely different with no expectations. Live long enough and you go down many paths.
A new path for me is writing for Ambush as a person living with HIV (PLWH). In New Orleans, I hope to fill a silence of a particular voice, one of somebody who is LIVING with HIV. I emphasize the living because that is what we do. This is an awesome time to be thriving with HIV. There are new advances in treatment, a body of new research, and resurgent efforts to end the HIV epidemic with tools, old and new.
Regardless of how I landed here or where things fit, I am here to provide another platform for perspectives not locally expressed. There’s much we need to share.
A bit of my story: In 2006, it was the early days of Spring and a few months after Hurricane Katrina, the biggest event New Orleans ever experienced. I had recently moved back home after six months as a refugee in Atlanta. Like others, my life was in turmoil along with family and friends. We had our first post-K Carnival season and a poignant Mardi Gras. We were anxious to rebuild and uncertain how best to do this for ourselves.
It was a surreal time of seeing people and watching parts of the city slowly being revitalized and repopulated. Running into connections that we lost touch with and fearing the worst were constants. And there was the joy of seeing a familiar face and getting an update about someone who knows someone who knows someone we know. Six months passed with longing and determination to return home.
After a few months of being back full-time, not only did I learn I was living with HIV but also a diagnosis of AIDS. I’ll fill in some blanks at another time. Fast-forward some thirteen years ahead to 2019, I now see myself as a policy wonk and an HIV activist. A few circles in life lead me to writing here.
So what’s happening now? I frolic in the streets with a group of ordinary men with extraordinary moves who help people smile. I host a radio show despite a stutter. And I’m convinced a major health event makes you a bit of an expert on living with a chronic manageable condition. After a few years of adjustment and clamor, you wake up one day and ask “Who am I and what am I doing?”.
Life is full of experiences of amplitudes and you ride the waves as long as you can. And there are resonating emotions that will pull you along. I’ve met so many people in the field of HIV and am honored to know them. Some I call my friends and some whose work provides a better world for those of us with HIV. And there are some, the few, you might avoid. Still, others possess a real natural passion along with an understanding and compassion to help.
HIV has made me an activist and it reminds me to put people first. Sometimes when I remind others, they look puzzled. Not only are there many monikers for PLWH–consumers, patients, and clients–but also there are identifiers such as HIV+, HIV-infected or HIV positives. These ignore our humanity.
In me, you will have someone who may not get points across in the right way, but in a genuine way that may even piss you off. I share one voice, not all voices. It’s a fantasy to think of a monolithic voice or a universal tone. I trust you are ready.
The plan is to bring science and information to the forefront about HIV, as much as you can stomach. We can cover all the nice things like HIV treatment, U=U, prevention, inspirational stories, events, and more. We will also reveal the nastier things like HIV stigma, the viral divide, serosorting from LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ.
There is so much we never talk about or never want to say that affect people we know and love, and contribute to feelings of isolation and fear. We will change narratives and avoid words and phrases that cause alienation, isolation, and mistrust. Let’s learn together. There are so many stories waiting to be told. Oh, the places we’ll go.
Give me a kiss before you leave me
And my imagination will feed my hungry heart
Leave me one thing before we part
A kiss to build a dream on
(Lyrics to A Kiss To Build A Dream On by Oscar Hammerstein II, Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby)