World Aids Day the beginning 2016
A Reflection of Remembrance for our lost generation to AIDS
including Kevin Kelland's 30th Anniversary of living with HIV since the 5th December 1986!
His very special thanks to so many people who have been there for him on his journey!
Like so many HIV Long Term Survivors, it is so important to share our stories of those beloved people we dearly miss will live on in our hearts forever. Though time moves on and faces change.
The challenge to us all remains to accept love as the precious key to end intolerance, stigma and bigotry!!
The evening consists of contributors' thoughts, memories and poems and music introduced by Revd Dr Gemma Burnett.
My 34th Anniversary of Living with HIV 5th December 2020 I prayed to God that this could never happen to me!! I found this was the most Isolating experience of my life, but out of negative experiences you can turn your life around! In my darkest despair people reach out to me; it is biggest tap on the shoulder I've ever had!
The Early years from December the 5th 1986…. During the week the clinic informed me, that there was a chance I might be infected by HIV, I nearly went out of my mind!! l suddenly saw the world around me in a hazy cloud. I felt so numb I could hardly work; my place of work was Portrait Photography Studio, in a big Department store with lots of shop in shops!
The agony lasted from Tuesday to Friday, when it was confirmed I was HIV Positive; I didn't know really what to do with myself! Walking around the streets of Plymouth, I was feeling like an Alien, just dropped to earth from another planet! I had tried to hide my pain, but my dear friends Jean and Tracy (my two work colleges) knew something was terribly wrong! AT first I didn't know what to do, but going against Clinical Advisors, I walked into work and told them. Jean and Tracy coped very well. I felt great relief in telling, we were all very emotional! They coped very well half suspecting, some Gay love affair had gone wrong or such like. The very next-day Tracy was late for work, I was crying and my imagination ran riot, thinking she had left and was afraid of me!
To my relief Tracy turned up only having missed the bus!!! Being honest I could have been sacked, as there was so much hysteria, Stigma and misunderstanding about HIV/AIDS, the media created a climate of frenzied bigotry!! A few weeks later the manageress of the Hair Saloon, our neighbouring shop in shop, went on a hygiene and AIDS awareness course. Returning back, the Saloon with zealous sterilisation of combs, scissors, surfaces, floors and chair legs were all cleaned with such force!
We were all summoned to the manageress office; to hear tell us anybody can walk in and have AIDS!! To hear the panic, paranoia and gloom!! My dear friend Tracy set me at ease, nestled up and gave me a squeeze!! I decided not to tell my parents who I loved dearly, if I became ill I would tell them! My dear Nan was coming for Christmas; I had to pull myself together! I never told her, I had a moment of paranoia: sharing a meal with her she pinch one my potatoes from my plate, I wondered could it be transferred like that, which is impossible; it was but me being dreadful stupid!!
Nan was great therapy to take my mind of the status. That winter was very cold, so Nan stayed about 3 months; unknown to her she had helped me through the worst time of my life! Ironically as years passed, I found myself being the strong one. My mother was fighting cancer by the early 90s, losing it January 94, it was blessing I never told. Dear mum never coped very well with all the AIDS hysteria; telling her I was Buddy was enough, with comments like go and wash your hands, we don't want that disease home here? No! Thank you Jean and Tracy who gave me so much love and foundation, it might have been a completely different story. Now I'm approaching 34th year living with HIV, sometimes looking back it has been a mixture of being fragile, weak, very sad, but on the whole happier and stronger enjoying this life so many never had! I feel I'm past, present and future.
For many years I was scared to share my story, in fear of rejection and stigma, but in last few years I came to the realisation that our great humanity and sharing on Facebook can break down many barriers. Sharing the stories of becoming a AIDS Buddy in my late 30s, life was vey busy with rushing around Devon and Cornwall! Being involved in Bethany respite house project, set up by the RC sisters of Mercy and many others Bodmin Cornwall, which supported people living with HIV/AIDS! Offering short term care for all over the UK for around 15 years from it's embryonic days, when people stayed a Convent Annex, till eventually we raised enough funds to refurbish the adjacent Building Loretto house into beautiful and modern home.
It was Amazing it was unbelievable how we ever did it?! The Grand Official opening By Princess Diana, was a incredible day! Princess Diana great humanity touched our hearts with her amazing grace! I remember being so nervous talking the photos, but i treasure them so much. I was in involved in' Bethany' respite home in Bodmin Cornwall UK, from 1988 to 1995, sadly my dear mother Rosemary died of Melanoma Cancer in January 1994, in many ways I'm very glad i didn't disclose my HIV status to family, i sure i would've of blame myself for exacerbating Mum's illness?!
My dear father Tony needed much more support as he had been disabled with Polio, since being only 21 years, dad was such a kind and assuming man! The first 10 years from 1985 to 1995 were very emotional. Challenging and difficult losing Mum, and other key family members like my Nan and aunt Mary and her husband uncle Alan( my dad's brother)all had various more normal health issues like Cancer and heart and stroke problems!! My former partner died Ivor of AIDS in January 1991, who they lived in Oxford, supporting him was vey difficult as i had my full time job, fortunately i always had Sunday and Mondays off (read Ivor's story in WAD gallery!! My Beautiful friends Anthony and Alessandro passed away too, also included in the gallery as well! We remember our Lost Generation on World AIDS Day Tuesday 1st December 2020. I also thank God for my life , which so many of dear friends never had!!
Thank you Steve my my husband and all my dear friends!! ..........Now and Beyond being a member of the HIV Long Term Survivors over 6yrs , we decided my husband Steve and I would visit San Francisco Christmas 2016! We arrived Christmas Eve and we were invited the Elizabeth Taylor 50 plus group at Sausage factory The Castro , we were met with opening arms and immediately felt part of the Family, Meeting Jesus Heberto Guillen Solis, George Kelly, Harry Breaux Vince Crisostomo and Raoul Thomas and at later Kevin Vanden Bergh and many others! It was so Amazing meeting these wonderful guys for real ,all sharing our lives experience as Long Term Survivors,!! Our two weeks stay will be in my heart for ever, knowing their love and friendship is always there! In July 2018 I attended the International AIDS Conference Amsterdam Netherlands , it was great to meet up with another great friend Robert De Groot,(which met in April 2017 which I feel I've a heartfelt infinity with)It was the chance of a lifetime with people all over the world attending, at one time I wouldn't of had the confidence to do this! Remember you never stop growing up, I've Survived Pneumonia in 2001and two heart attacks in 2004, now I'm on heart medication and HIV Drugs Travada and Nevirapine since 2006.Being a Survivor has never been easy, losing my former partner Ivor and many lovers and friends took a lot coming to terms with! But I'm still Here loving Life with husband Steve and our dog Harvey and determined that our stories will be Honoured and Remembered!
A piece of my story has been included in the Book Ripples from the Edge of Life by Roland Chesters an account of a life changing diagnosis and the impact on him and those Closest to Him! This book contains wisdom , hope and inspiration in equal measure. Now the update last couple of years with the Roland Chester being our guest speaker at our last WORLD AIDS DAY remembrance 2019 which was a amazing success! Living with HIV nearly half my life has been a great teacher in my life some of course very sad, but to remain strong to Love and be Kind.. With this Unprecedented challenges of COVID 19, which really does sometimes make me feel so much despair, for World AIDS DAY 2020 i present the 1985 to 2020 photo gallery, which is a positive project presentation, with great remembrance of many and Thank you all people who have contributed with their stories and photographs!
It was fantastic to have Roland Chesters as our guest speaker in Plymouth Devon for World AIDS Day 2019.... We provided a Compliementary lunch followed by talks by Roland, Pride in Plymouth's Dr Alan Butler , Mark Ayres,Peter Davey and myself... followed by a Raffle for the NLTSG which raised £192.00! It was encouragingly well attended and Big Thank you for all the people who Supported this event ! Also BBC'S Spotlight South West filmed and then interviewed Roland Chesters and myself which aired on the evening of World AIDS Day. Thank you very much the Revd Keith Robus and Stoke Damerel Church for hosting us in such a welcoming atmosphere!! Thank you so much for taking the photos Peter Davey and Nadine Critchley