Canadian Positive People Network (CPPN)
Réseau canadien des personnes séropositives (RCPS)
An interview with Kendall
Kendall, how do you define what a Long-term survivor is?
"I can only define it for me. For me, I am a Long-Term Survivor because I was diagnosed as positive (for the HTLV-III virus) in 1984 when we all expected that anybody who had the virus would die…. soon. I lived for more than a decade without any form of treatment for the virus. For me, 37 years of living with HIV, about 12 of those with no available treatment, is a Long-Term Survivor."
This year’s HIV Long Term Survivor’s Awareness Day’s Theme is "AIDS at 40: Envisioning a Future We Never Imagined", what does this statement mean to you?
In the early 80s, people were selling their insurance policies, living live to the fullest and creating what they thought would be cherished memories for the loved ones they would leave behind. But some of us didn’t die and now we’re still here making cherished memories. We are living a Future We Never Imagined. Absolutely we are.
From your perspective, Kendall, how has HIV and AIDS changed over time? What has not changed?
"It’s come from being a death sentence, with no available treatment and with death happening fairly quickly, to a time where treatments were now available, the hope being that they would somehow prolong the inevitable, to today where newly diagnosed HIV POZ people are being told they’re living with a manageable, chronic condition and that, in all likelihood, they will live long and healthy lives. But there remains a stigma felt by a lot of HIV positive people and that stigma can, like it did 40 years ago, make people feel less valuable and less worthy."
What is one important thing you think Canadians should know about HIV Long-term Survivors?
"That, for me, the road to here has been a long, confusing, and often difficult one. There has been a lot of guilt and regret and so many questions asking, “why me”. However there has also been tremendous joy, amazing life experiences and so many friendships I lived long enough to foster. That I am grateful to be one of those that beat the odds, a Long-term Survivor."
What is one thing you would say to someone who is newly diagnosed with HIV?
"I would say give HIV the respect it warrants: take your meds, eat healthily, get enough sleep, and do what you can to reduce stress. But don’t let HIV control your life. Being POZ is only a part of who you are, a small part, and certainly not worthy of a starring role in your story. Good luck!!"
Kendall, is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
"To other long-term survivors, remember that it’s really okay that we’re still here. To HIV negative survivors of HIV, thanks for your compassion and support."