Canadian Positive People Network
Réseau canadien des personnes séropositives
An interview with Donny P.
So, Donny, how would you define what a Long-term Survivor is?
“To me, it is having HIV for a lengthy time of 20+ years and someone who has lived through the old-school meds that had more side effects than I want to remember. Also, being someone who has watched many, many of their friends pass away from this."
What does this year’s HIV Long-term Survivors Awareness Day theme mean to you? This year’ theme is: “AIDS at 40: Envisioning a Future We Never Imagined.
“It means that 40 years ago it was basically a death sentence and the early meds that were fought for were toxic and had so many debilitating side-effects that it was “do I really want to continue to live a life like this?” Plus, the stigma that came with being HIV was sometimes worse than the side effects.
I really didn’t think I would see a future where meds would work and not sideline you with side effects and that the stigma would be better. It is better, but there is still so much out there and there is work to be done to fix that. It also makes me feel that we can now have a very successful and meaningful life filled with love and great things.”
How much do you think HIV/AIDS has changed or not changed over time?
“Well, first the meds have become very effective and given new life to many. We have had many breakthroughs and worked hard as a community to get to a place where we have proven and delivered the U=U campaign showing that transmission is not possible if you are undetectable. The biggest thing that still plagues us is that nasty stigma of us being unclean or dirty which really hurts and cuts to the core, I am not unclean or dirty and nobody who positive is.”
What is one important thing you think that Canadians should know about HIV Long-term Survivors?
“We have fought a tough battle and most have been experimented on with new meds so that people that get infected today can receive good and strong working treatments. We have all suffered great losses and isolation and have seen how nasty society can be towards our community. But we have also been privileged to have had the chance to experience long lives filled with some amazing memories and lots of love… I personally am grateful that I am a Long-term Survivor and would never want to change that. I don’t think I would be the person I am today if I had not had to endure life without HIV.”
If you were having a conversation with someone who was newly diagnosed with HIV, what is one thing that you would want them to know? What would you say to them?
“I know you are scared and mad at the world, and you might think that life is over, and you will never find love or great sex. (lol) But I am here to tell you that love is out there, and the medications work amazingly and you will be able to have such an amazing life filled with great memories and lots of love and laughs. Look to us long-timers for support or to ask questions. We are here to help you navigate your way. You are NOT alone!!!”
Is there anything else you would like to share?
“Being a long-timer, as I like to call myself, has given me many amazing opportunities to meet some amazing people in our community and to share our lives with. I have learned over the many years that while our journeys are different, we all share many experiences in common. We go to training sessions/conferences where you will meet amazing people and will make some amazing new connections that will change your life. I know I have made some! Never be afraid to reach out for help or advice. At the end of the day, we are all in this together and we all want to make it better for everyone.”