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'Be proud of who you are'

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kevinkelleher
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'Be proud of who you are'
Posted on: January 25 2010, 11:58 pm

Don't live in the shadows, says a young person living with HIV

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From coming to terms with our sexuality to balancing our social life and studies, young people have many issues to deal with whilst making the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

We constantly have to defend our achievements and counter criticisms of systems often not created by us, but ones we have no other choice than to participate in. We have to defend ourselves against the stigma and prejudices that have come to define our generation.

Luckily for most of us, we have found ways to come to terms with and counter these common misconceptions. Some of us, however, cannot afford this luxury. If you are young and HIV positive in today's society you are hard pressed to find a sympathetic or understanding ear. People's preconceptions govern their behaviour and if you do not hide who you are you quickly become victimised or marginalised, not because people are cruel but because people fear what they do not understand.

I have seen people's lives torn apart because of an illness they had no control over contracting. Teenagers forced to leave schools not just because of the bullying but because of the narrow-minded teachers who were supposed to be teaching and protecting them, and families forced to leave communities after their homes were vandalised and defiled. In situations like this it's hard to go to the authorities and ask for help because you are fearful that you will make your condition public, and possibly running the risk of bringing more abuse to your doorstep. We are forced to live in fear.

It's funny how we want our youth to practice safe sex and stem the rapid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases but those who could make the most difference, those who have the illnesses, are forced into silence and are too scared to speak out. What does that say about our society?

Today I am participating in a conference hosted by the Children and Young People HIV Network, based at charity, NCB. Being involved in the Network has allowed me to meet people who have been through similar things to me it has helped me explore myself and the world that we live in.

To those who are HIV positive, [there are some 1,460 children under 19 living with HIV in the UK, 97% of whom were infected through mother to baby transmission] I say be proud of who you are. You are more than the clothes on your back, the area you live in or the illness that you suffer with. If people do not appreciate your beauty let them forever live in darkness, do not allow bigots to force you into the shadows. The first step on a long journey is always the hardest, but the journey is what makes the destination that much more rewarding. I am happy, I am healthy, I am HIV positive.

For more information visit ncb.org.uk/hiv

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2009/dec/04/living-with-hiv
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