by Sergey Grankin

This blog entry was a result of a community collaboration with Spokane AIDS Network.

Header - lelani-blankContracting HIV will change your life. Initially the shock, stigma and fear play a huge role, but the reality is quite different. For Lelani, a drag performer in Spokane, HIV is the cause of strong activism and education in the community. “I’ve had the virus for two years now. As someone from the younger generation, not only do I want to be here for the rest of my life but I have others to think about, like friends and family. So I think it’s important to [get treatment] and count your blessings.”

Getting treatment for HIV is the difference between life and death. Lelani has a low viral load and has been undetectable for over a year now. She knows the importance of treatment and can tell you that it will save your life. “You will survive. A lot of people when they get [HIV] think they’re just going to die, but you will be okay. If you show the dedication and that you want to be here, then those medications will help you do that.”

Treatment is one of the most important pieces to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, especially that we now know that being on treatment can significantly reduce the risk of transmitting HIV. Governor Jay Inslee signed a proclamation stating that Washington State will cut new infections in half and end AIDS in Washington by the year 2020. Lelani sees treatment as a big player in ending AIDS by 2020. “Treatment is important so you can stop the disease, treat it and prevent any more unfortunate stories.”

Drugs like PrEP,the daily pill that HIV negative people can take to reduce the risk of contracting HIV, are advancing our knowledge of both treatment and prevention. Medicine, advances in health care and education are making it easier to live with HIV every day. Medication for treatment is irreplaceable, but Lelani would like to see us go even further. “I just really hope things keep progressing forward to a point where there’s a cure for [HIV].”

HIV is a serious virus affecting millions of people worldwide, but in the end there is always hope. Treatment remains the biggest element to survival with HIV and the prevention of new infections. Like many HIV positive people out there, Lelani knows that because of her treatment she can remain alive and well today. “I always knew people with AIDS and they kept dying. I never knew it was in stages so when I was diagnosed, I thought I was gonna die and I had a year to live. The health department really helped me out…. Know your resources”

Sergey Grankin is a co-host of the Pacific Northwest LGBT radio talk show OUTSpoken. He is a frequent contributor to the Seattle Lesbian and CCE Sports Network. Known for his sense of humor and candid opinions on social issues and politics, Sergey is a loud and proud gay Russian immigrant.