For the South Carolina Annual HIV and Hepatitis conference THRIVE SS’ Executive Director, Larry Walker, delivered a keynote speech called “From Surviving to THRIVING: The Importance of Support for people living with HIV (PLWH). In the speech he covers how help received from others is largely responsible for his ability to avoid many of the obstacles that prohibit Black poor youth from advancing. Making the point that “support saves lives,” he told the stories of PLWH who were adequately supported in contrast to those who had little to no support. Showing the contrasting outcomes via storytelling and poetry, Walker navigated the audience through an emotional journey that would conclude with him pleading with the audience to be what he calls a “trauma-informed supporter.” Walker elevates that a trauma informed supporter is one who realizes that an HIV diagnosis can weigh heavily on a person and challenge their ability to love and care for themselves fully, who recognizes when life may be overwhelming and providing stress on their loved ones living with HIV, and responds in ways that are useful, humanizing and reminds the PLWH of their power and agency.
Today, we ask the followers of THRIVE SS, as well as anyone who knows anyone living with HIV or any other chronic illness, to endeavor to be a source of continued compassion and support for them. At THRIVE we hear both horror and heroic stories from PLWH, and the difference is usually dictated by whether they had people who loved them in their corner to combat the sea of negativity coming from, both, outside (Implied and enacted stigmas) and within us (self-stigmas).
For PLWH to go from just surviving to THRIVING with HIV, the support of a loving community that is dedicated to the wellness of all of its members is required. Thusly, we must all evaluate how we show up for and in the lives of people living with HIV, as it will take all of our efforts to end HIV once and for all.
To learn more about how THRIVE SS works to combat HIV stigma and support those living with HIV to THRIVE visit us at www.thrivess.org and follow our various social media pages.