Imagine being so close to your dream; finally able to quit your job and start a sabbatical year around the world. Imagine waking up a few days before the dream come true and being diagnosed with HIV.
How would your life change? How would you react?
I am Felice, born in Naples, Italy and raised around the world. I have long desired to be a change-maker, an inspiration to this rapidly-changing world, yet I never expected to be the voice of millions of people living with HIV – especially not after years of corporate life.
I am here instead, being able to use such a relevant space to educate others around HIV and AIDS; I could focus on the evolution of science and the opportunity of being on treatment, living a normal life and being unable to transmit the virus. I could mention preventive therapies or the advances to bring pregnancies to a successful end with no risk of transmission for the babies.
Yet, when I close my eyes and think about my personal story, I feel I was meant to talk about love. I know I was meant to evidence the luck of humanity most people are still experiencing, resulting in not justifiable suffering.
What was meant to be a sabbatical year of surfing and meditation, an opportunity to see the most beautiful beaches and sunsets of the world, became for me an opportunity to stand still. The diagnosis gave me the chance to stop and meditate; through the power of silence I was able to create a different narrative about health and wellness. It gave me the chance to realize that the biggest enemy to deal with wasn’t the virus nor my chronic condition. I was rather letting the pain being inflicted by the lack of humanity, the lack of education, the lack of love.
The most painful journey to deal with has been related to personal fear and internalized stigma, rejection experienced at home and amongst friends, the difficulty to cope with a world that still knows so little, and so wrong, about HIV and AIDS. I had to deal with the violence of a father and his words. I saw “friends” walk away and people refusing moments of intimacy although unable to transmit the virus. I was strong enough to move beyond a heavy depression and kept myself together even when I had recurring suicidal thoughts. I kept finding courage to move on through my vulnerability, yet I couldn’t stop considering the luck of humanity.
So, let me ask you… What are we doing as human beings? Where is our capacity to support and uplift one another no matter what? Where is our capacity to feel, to breath and to support the other?
Where is the love?
I wondered why the majority of people living with HIV are still struggling. I started to elevate myself until I felt comfortable to open up and share my story with the world; until I became a reference for the many reaching out to me with their stories of shame and depression, of lack of understanding and support.
As a result, while science is advancing and helping people cope with chronic diseases, we are still failing as human beings. Most are incapable of providing a hand to a friend or a lover, to a family member. We are failing so badly when it comes to HIV and AIDS that most people won’t feel secure to disclose their status, not even to their family members. Therefore, most people are living with a heavy monster inside and that monster is not HIV; it is rather shamefulness or fear of rejection, repression or depression – mostly generated by obsolete beliefs.
I could have used this space to educate about HIV and AIDS, yet I have preferred to write about love. No matter how much science is evolving, if we fail evolving in terms of compassion, our brothers and sisters will still suffer and die, preferring to walk a path towards death rather than encountering life.
The greatest medicine in the world goes beyond our physical body, it transcends our skin and it creates spaces for inner acceptance and transformation. We have the capacity to choose the difference we want to make in this world and the ways we decide to show up. Are you brave enough to support your fellow humans and raise in the name of love?