HIV/AIDS: A topic that is not on the forefront of young minds, especially if they do not have the disease or personally know someone who is affected by it. Many people, young and old, assume that because they’re not gay, there is no way they can contract this disease. They may also think HIV/AIDS was only prevalent in the 80’s and 90’s and is somehow extinct today.
Well, I am guilty of having a blind eye towards this disease and the fact that it is very well existent among many people today. However, on Monday, April 7th, the Madison HIV/AIDS Alliance hosted an event that opened my eyes in a way I didn’t expect it to.
The event was “Being Positive,” and had three speakers: the first was Dr. Gleason, an Assistant Professor in the Nursing Department at JMU who has had firsthand experience in the medical field during the HIV/AIDS epidemic during the 80’s and 90’s; the second was a man from Winchester, Va.—near Harrisonburg—who was diagnosed HIV+ in the late 90’s; and the last speaker was a former JMU student, Pablo Moulden, who found out he was HIV+ at a younger age.
Dr. Gleason started the event by explaining the common misconceptions that are associated with AIDS/HIV, and then began to tell her story of how she was a pediatric nurse to children who were infected with the HIV virus from their parents. She gave the brutal fact that several of the children had passed away, but then countered that with her current work of researching many of her patients’ survival stories, experiences and how they are doing today. She stated that her passion is to hear the many success stories of her old patients.
After Dr. Gleason spoke, the man from Winchester told his story of how he contracted the disease, which was not by unprotected sex, but by cleaning out a hotel trashcan that had a used syringe which poked him and infected him with the virus. He also explained how he dealt with it over the years, the treatments, the advancements, and living positive.
And last but certainly not least was Pablo Moulden. He found out he was HIV+ in 2009, when he was only in high school and contracted the disease from his partner at the time. He described moments like when he told his parents—making the point they are the most supportive parents in the world—how he handled being at JMU, his failed relationships, his cancer diagnosis(not associated with the HIV virus), his proud remission, and finding someone who fully accepts him for all that he is, regardless of his disease (who was actually there that night, happily supporting him). Pablo told his story with humor, openness, dignity and sincerity, and ended with a profound conclusion. He walked up to the white board behind him and wrote in big letters, “PROTECT YOURSELF. RESPECT YOURSELF. LOVE YOURSELF.” Meaning you should protect yourself from situations that could potentially change your life forever; respect yourself to know when to walk away, and love yourself so that you can live life to the fullest. He said this is the motto his tries to live by and tries to encourage others to live by as well, because those three things can be our flotation device in life.
Pablo’s story is one that touched me immensely. For someone to stand in front of a room with over a hundred people, tell their story of hardship, horrors, mistakes, and disclose extremely intimate information to strangers, all while having a positive attitude, exudes perseverance, humility, and for lack of a better word, awesomeness.
Pablo is more than an inspiration, but an example to live positive; because “Being Positive” makes you able to face adversity with endurance. “Being positive” makes you willing and able to make a bad-ass pitcher of lemonade when life decides to hand you a bunch of lemons.
I personally thank all the speakers for their courage and passion in telling their stories and spreading awareness of HIV/AIDS. I wish nothing but a life full of joy and love for Pablo and the other individual who spoke about his experience. I also hope that you support those living with AIDS/HIV and remember to protect yourself, respect yourself, and love yourself.
Below is Pablo’s contact information, which he gave to the entire room in case anyone needs to talk, needs help, has questions, or just wants to show some love. He also has a YouTube channel, so check it out.
Twitter: @MaestroOfHope #livelifepositively