Meet Stella Martin
It has been a hard task to write this blog. It brought about a space I forgot about. A space that housed memories of people I had to tell were HIV positive and relatives lost to the virus. But relived were thriving relatives. Having to delicately enter this place and reignite its central fire, I felt calm and quiet. Greeting forgotten faces. Hugging graceful souls. I was happy.
Over the years as an HIV Preventionist and a Disease Intervention Specialist I have met so many people. The most resilient and influential have been my relatives living with HIV. They say, “I am infected but, this is not all I am.” This was a resonant statement over the 10 years working with HIV positive people. Each person was thriving forward with joy, pride and purpose.
A Dine mother living with HIV told me she had no time to worry about the virus, which was contracted through her husband, for she had kids, livestock and a life to live for. Her grace and passion to this day is still so strong. Coming into this new year I reflect and am grateful for my experiences. Thankful that I can unfold these memories to you, and to the fabulous 2019 COH Planning Committee.
In wisdom I learned some see HIV as a curse, a disadvantage. Then I was taught it was a blessing. I learned from my indigenous relatives living with the virus, it has given them a chance to create change and be unapologetically themselves. In this I was allowed to be myself as an HIV negative transwoman. It gives me courage still in this day to continue fighting for my community, strive to raise awareness and enjoy in the presence of my loved ones.
The virus has changed my life. It opened worlds unknown. My HIV positive relatives you allowed me, with your willingness, to journey with you. Thank you for allowing me into your private spaces, seeing your tears of anger and joy. Gently reminding me that an HIV diagnosis is not the end, that this life is meant to be lived. When I am down and feel unnecessary, I look into myself and see all of you and our talks around campfires, to feel intentional again. HIV is a blessing for it brought me all of you.
I am honored to be your Mistress of Ceremony for the 2019 Circle of Harmony Conference. May our new year be blessed with intention, self-fulfillment and the sweetness of life.