I never capitalize aids or hiv; I do not want to give them any special power. What I do capitalize is Love.
The NGO to which I have been assigned here in Chiang Mai is the Thai Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS (TNP+) which was officially established in 1997. This network has organized itself into seven regions representing all of Thailand. I am working with the Northern Region which represents the eight provinces of northern Thailand.
I have been warmly, indeed Lovingly, embraced by the more than 100 individuals whom I have met to this point. I have sincerely been told, and made to feel, that I am now a member of the TNP+ family. I have now been witness to the incredible accomplishments these people have achieved in solving many hiv/aids problems in Thailand, how they have pushed and driven relentlessly against powerful counter-forces and daunting odds to force hiv/aids solutions, and continue to do so. I humbly and proudly have accepted my inclusion into their family. It is a relationship that I will strive to honor for the rest of my life.
I came to Thailand hoping to show in person that a diagnosis of aids no longer means that the infected person will live a short life or be physically restricted from living life to the fullest. One of the questions that I was asked by an hiv-positive individual here was “Do you think you will live to be 80?”. Absolutely, and I will still be healthy, strong and traveling the world looking to do some good. How wonderfully amazing for me that a small but heartfelt effort on my part, at age 65, to make a positive contribution in the fight against hiv/aids problems and stigma and fear would become one of the great gifts in my own life.
Thank you Carlton Rounds, thank you Jutatip Dechaboon, thank you to my new family of friends at TNP+ and thank you to the gracious people and culture of Thailand. I hope and expect that some of the hiv-positive individuals now reading these words who will become volunteers in Volunteer Positive will find the same kind of joy, validation, and sense of accomplishment that I have found.
Be Visible. Be Powerful. Be Positive. Having HIV or AIDS opens an opportunity to Volunteer Positive.