Positively running toward change

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Something really phenomenal is about to happen. Something so monumental that a huge shift in awareness might even take place.

In light of my 13 years of surviving with HIV and the current social stigma surrounding HIV in this country, I am about to embark on something pretty scary.

On June 22, on my mom’s 70th birthday, I am going to run 336 miles from Syracuse, N.Y., to the GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Center) in New York City.

My goal is to get this movement picked up by the media, both in Syracuse and NYC, to give a face to HIV – not just on a global level, but on a neighborhood-community level.

I want to initiate a change. A change where people who are living with HIV see themselves as being whole. Knowing that they are beautiful and important people regardless of their status, and that they are not their status.

The deal is, HIV scares the heck out of me. Until yesterday, I was awakened by my heart that I have been living the past 13 years feeling like I was going to die at any time. As if I had an expiration date that was soon approaching. That is far from the deal, because I am incredibly healthy. Besides, we all have a short time on this beautiful planet and anyone could go at anytime.

That’s just a fact.

What isn’t the deal is, because of what HIV/AIDS represents in this country, I went through a pretty frightening downward spiral into self-destructive behavior. Even though I have the spent the better part of the last six years in self-improvement work, there was still one painful thorn left in my side. This thorn was a biggie. This thorn was HIV.

All of my decisions throughout the past 13 years have been made under the influence of being HIV-positive and it’s stigma; from being afraid to tell people, hiding it from friends, family and co-workers to spending the past 13 years getting medical services in HIV/AIDS clinics and feeling like I was just another infected person – ashamed, alone, another statistic.

To make this happen, I am going to need support – and I mean big support. Whether that is in the form of donations for my 15-20 day running journey, a tent, spreading the word, writing e- mails to the media and media publications to sponsorship.

Much of my thinking and attitude towards HIV and myself have changed dramatically. I’m living quite happily. I would like to see clinical procedures change. That means, I would like to see medical institutions that offer medical services for HIV-infected people create better programs and support outlets for those who need that extra support with disclosure and self-acceptance.

Thank you for reading this and, as this movement evolves, so will the collective consciousness of this country. Remember, it starts with one person. If you know someone who is HIV-positive and might be struggling, reach out to them in a way that could make a difference.

To get involved, go to hivandprofoundvisibility.blogspot.com.

—Greg Halpen