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  • Writer's pictureRemi

16 - ONLY FOOLS ...

Illustration @mehdi_ange_r (INSTAGRAM)

How many times did I start this story?

A two-month writing break was just what I needed to enjoy the benefits of my new life where my voice became FREE.

As you can see, I was very productive in the first few weeks after launching the blog. And through writing, through sharing these milestones of my life with HIV with you, I think I have made great strides towards full acceptance. The shame of HIV has become pride in how far I've come, in who I've become.

This silence about writing has been terribly distressing for me too. There wasn't a day when I didn't wonder if I would have something new to write about. Of course I do, but to do that you have to take the time to live. Some very nice things are happening in my personal life. I also wanted to enjoy all this.

During these few weeks of silence, I was able to discover how necessary the blog really is:

I was approached in a bar by a boy who came out of nowhere and recognised me. He simply came over to congratulate me very nicely. I found his approach particularly nice.

Last week I was in London for work. We spent the evening together with my colleagues and my manager. All of a sudden, in the middle of "Cheers, guys!", my boss says to me in front of all my colleagues: "Remi, can you tell us about JOURNAL POSITIF, because it's in French, I don't understand but I really want to know.".

I think I turned scarlet, not from shame, just because I had slept for two hours the night before, had had an exhausting day and didn't expect to have to talk about the blog in English with my European counterparts.

Anyway, I went for it. No one took their eyes off me. I saw their eyes moved a bit too and I was moved myself. I noticed something quite telling during this moment of exchange. I have been working for years with people of different nationalities and we don't always understand each other. But here there was a real communion. Our cultural differences were completely erased.

They asked me relevant questions and above all they told me that I should have the texts translated. First of all, because they wanted to read me, but above all to unite as many people as possible. For them, the action of the blog is necessary and concerns us all. I'm quite in tune with that.

So there were these moments, a bit out of time, but also some aspects that I appreciate less.

I'm not much into social networking anymore, but I feel obliged to be there to get the word out about the blog. On Twitter in particular, I regularly post articles I like about HIV and to announce new stories from the JOURNAL POSITIF.

In all honesty, I very regularly consider deleting my account. I see things appearing on my newsfeed that I don't necessarily want to and I see that it is a tool capable of the best and the worst. But for me, I think that just posting the blog's promotion and relaying information that I find important will remain the use I will make of it.

I receive quite a few private messages from people who provoke me, from people who question me and not necessarily in a benevolent way. Sometimes I post anecdotes, then they don't belong to me anymore and suddenly the Twitter community gets hold of them. Debate is impossible with social networks. Users get all fired up and block whenever you disagree with them (even before they've had a chance to get to the bottom of a potential interesting exchange).

In short, there is a real lack of open-mindedness on this tool where ego seems to take over the acceptance of the other.

I'll mention an anecdote that, when it happened, shocked me a bit.

I was "almost" anti-PrEP, probably for very personal reasons that I prefer not to elaborate.

My reasoning was: why take a drug when other options exist? In particular, condoms. I also thought: ok, PrEP protects against HIV, but what about the rest?

And then, one day on Twitter, a pro-PrEP post appeared on my feed. I had the reflex to comment on the information that was given and announced that yes, it seemed to be effective against HIV, but it did not protect against other STIs and STDs. For me it was not a question of discrediting PrEP, simply of completing a message that I found far too synthetic given the scope of the subject.

And then, what nerve I had to allow myself to intervene, me the seropositive... (and this is how I was addressed): "How can YOU write that?".

I felt compelled to justify myself when in the end I should have simply refrained. Instead of understanding why I reacted the way I did, the Twitter community called me a collaborator.

These people had two options: to calmly explain and share their vision with me, or to be judgmental. At first, the second option was chosen. After a few exchanges I let go of the matter because I felt they were sterile.

Then I went to find out more, I tried to understand why their reaction had been so passionate. I met boys who use it and I asked questions. These boys answered me. I read articles, I read data, I did this research exercise because I felt that I was so lacking in information.

In my opinion, using social media to say in 280 characters that PrEP is good, and that people who think otherwise are criminals, is clearly not constructive and would even contribute to its bad reputation.

After analysis, if I didn't understand, it was simply that I wasn't the target and wouldn't have been even before I was infected.

But I eventually heard that it was useful for others than me, and finally accepted that it was necessary.

Taking PrEP is about being responsible with your sexual practices and eliminating the risk of HIV infection.

Discussing, exchanging, confronting opinions that are different from our own, challenging our beliefs and our comfort zone: this is how we can accept the difference and at the same time question ourselves.

I have no problem with saying that I may have been sceptical about PrEP. So I invite people who are sceptical to find out more about it rather than being judgmental. Because obviously it's a complex subject and to fully appreciate the revolutionary nature of it, you just have to get informed.

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