ADRIENNE'S HIV BLOG – Hivine's Weblog

HIVINE is written by HIV positive women but still with a sense of humour

SPEECH FOR THE WORLD AIDS DAY VIGIL 2007 BLACKBURN CATHEDRAL

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                                                                                                                                                                     We are gathered together here tonight in this magnificent cathedral to both mourn and honour the lives of those men, women and children who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS and also to raise awareness in the hope that future lives will be saved.  I believe that all of us here tonight share one thing in common. We are human beings who believe in the power of the Holy Spirit and the human spirit to overcome evil and to try to prevent unnecessary suffering in the world. AIDS is an unnecessary suffering, because unlike other illnesses, such as cancer, it is preventable.  Unfortunately, it is not unavoidable.

My name is Adrienne Seed. I am 58, I am a mother, an artist – some of you may be familiar with my work. I am also a counsellor – some of you may have even been my clients.  

I am also HIV positive.                                                     

I was diagnosed as HIV positive five years ago, and as you can imagine, it was a terrible shock for me, as it is for anyone, regardless of age, gender or ethnic origin – and in some ways, saying it out loud tonight, it is still a shock to me.  

Me? This can’t have happened to me –  But HIV can happen to anyone.  Anyone at all.  You may wonder why I have chosen to speak out tonight. I could have carried on living my ‘invisible’ life as a positive woman, in hiding, as so many of us do, hence the term invisible woman. I could have carried on with my career as an artist, as a counsellor, as a mother, living my day to day life and doing ordinary things, like singing in the choir, without anyone ever knowing or ever needing to know. And that’s exactly what I have been doing for the last five years, living a secret life with the burden of shame and guilt that HIV can inflict on those of us forced to live within its dark shadow, ever fearful of the stigma and prejudice that is still associated with this particular disease.  

But then something changed for me. It started the day our HIV social worker, who unfortunately we no longer have around to help and support us, said to me, “The trouble is Adrienne, people like you don’t have a voice.”  I am sure that Geoff, our choirmaster and great leader, would be in total agreement with the fact that I don’t have a voice and probably, so would the rest of the altos that I stand next to in the choir and frequently send out of tune. But speaking out about my HIV status has helped me to find my voice – although Geoff at this point, having heard me sing, would probably advise me to go and put it back where I found it. 

But somebody has to speak out and some of us already do, although I appreciate the fact that not everyone can. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself tonight and for the unforeseeable future now, because after tonight there is no going back, to become a voice for the invisible women out there who cannot speak out, either for fear of stigma and prejudice, fear of losing their jobs, or for fear of hurting their families.  

Fear – fear is a word all too often associated with HIV. People are frightened of us; we are a threat, a danger to society, contagious, a walking time bomb within their midst. The thing is, we are not the ones who are a danger to society, the opposite in fact, unlike the alleged third of the population who don’t even know they are infected and are therefore unwittingly passing the virus on. We wear our red ribbons once a year on World AIDS day in order to remind ourselves, and the world, that HIV/ AIDS is still an ever present threat. The red ribbon has become the universal symbol for HIV and AIDS.  

Scarlet Ribbons – some of you, who are old enough to remember, might recall that particular song. I do, because my dad used to sing it to me when I was a little girl. In fact, the song was first published the year I was born in 1949 before AIDS had reared its ugly head.  The words go something like this – and don’t worry Geoff, I’m not about to break into song, although perhaps it would be a good song for the choir to sing for the next vigil. 

I peeked in to say goodnight, when I heard my child in prayer
Send, dear God, some scarlet ribbons, s
carlet ribbons for my hair.

All the stores were closed and shuttered, all the streets were dark and bare
In our town no scarlet ribbons
Not one ribbon for her hair

Through the night my heart was aching, just before the dawn was breaking
I peeked in and on her bed i
n gay profusion laying there
I saw ribbons, scarlet ribbons
Scarlet ribbons, for her hair

If I live to be a hundred I will never know from where
Came those lovely scarlet ribbons
Scarlet ribbons for her hair.

When I was first diagnosed back in 2002 and really sick, my mother prayed to God to help her daughter to find the courage and strength to get through it all. Somehow, I did find the strength and the courage, although, like in the words of the song, I will never know from where – and I can only presume that my mother’s prayers were answered.   

Now, I see the scarlet ribbon, the red ribbon as a symbol of faith and belief in the power of good over evil. Anyone here tonight who has lost someone, or is caring for someone with a terminal illness, or fighting a terminal illness such as cancer themselves, will know the terrible toll it takes on the human spirit, as well as the body. The difference between HIV and other chronic diseases, such as cancer, is that you cannot catch cancer, but you can catch HIV. So therefore, in some ways it is a preventable disease, which, even without ever finding a cure, could be wiped out, simply by the raising of awareness. That is the message I want to get over tonight and why I am speaking out and by doing that, by helping to raise awareness, if I can prevent even one person from contracting this terrible disease, I will feel like I have done something worthwhile with my life – and with my HIV.   

Remember – HIV is not selective. It can and it does AFFECT and INFECT anyone – man, woman or child. The statistics show that more and more women are contracting HIV and I am merely one of those women who make up that statistic – and here tonight to prove it.  

The very fact that I am here tonight, means that I am one of the lucky ones, because unlike in some countries, I have had access to medical care and medication, without which I would not be alive and standing here tonight to tell the tale. From the word go, I have received amazing support from the G.U.M. clinic at The Royal Blackburn Hospital, from the nurses right down to the secretary and in particular our wonderful specialist Dr Guyed, who have all treated me with the utmost respect, Unfortunately, people with HIV are not always treated in such a respectful manner, especially in the old days when ignorance ruled. 

There is a bright side however, to living with this disease. It has afforded me the opportunity to meet some incredible and inspiring people, who I can honestly say it is an honour and a privilege to know. People like Catherine for example, who has been and is continuing to be, a total inspiration to me and who has given me the strength to do this tonight. In fact, if I hadn’t of met her, I probably wouldn’t be standing here now, trembling and choking up before you – so, thanks a bunch Cath!  

I also bless the day I walked through the doors of Body Positive in Manchester and could thereafter bask in the inspirational glow that Phil somehow manages to radiate with her smile and her laugh – note, I deliberately didn’t describe her laugh as infectious, which it undoubtedly is, as us positive folk are sensitive to certain words like infectious, and tend to avoid them at all costs.  There is one great thing that HIV does for the people who have to live with it, and that is, it unites us, no matter from what background, sexual orientation or gender. We have learnt, by having this disease, to accept others for what and who they are and not for what they have – in both senses of the word.  By accepting each other in this way, we are able to offer each other unconditional love and support.  

Unconditional love – maybe that is a message we can all benefit from and take home with us tonight. 

Thank you for listening.

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5 Comments»

  Julie wrote @

Wonderful speech Adrienne – I’m very proud that you’re my sister. Julie

  Viv wrote @

Well done you! This new found courage of yours is taking you on quite a journey. I too am proud of you.
We’ll be wearing our scarlet ribbons tomorrow and thinking of you and all the others.
Viv (and Eif)

  Trish Wiggins wrote @

Adrienne
Have just looked at your amazing paintings and read your Cathedral speech again. How little we know each other in the choir. How talented and witty you are! You could have been a writer as well. How about it?
As for bravery you clearly have it in spades.
How lucky we are to have you amongst us and I guess you know now how you will be lovingly supported even when not in the methodist hall.
Take care and happy Christmas.
Love Trish x

  jennifer wrote @

I have just read your speech it really is amazing, i think you are really brave and i admire your courage, i just wish i could be as brave as you, if there were more people like yourself the world wouldn’t be such a scarey place. Keep doing what your doing because your doing a good job.

  hivine wrote @

Hi jennifer,

Thank you so much for your message of support and encouragement. It means so much and will help me to continue to have the courage to keep speaking out because as you say the world is a very scary place.
Thanks for taking the time to comment and all the best to you,
My middle name is also Jennifer,

Adrienne


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