LIVING with HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence as you can still live a “normal” life.
Normal in the sense that you can have a career, even get married, raise children and become effectively involved in everything that life has to offer, an HIV ambassador has said.
This was what HIV ambassador from Australia, Deanna Blegg, said at a press conference yesterday in Mt Hagen, Western Highlands province.
Ms Blegg was diagnosed with HIV in 1996 at the age of 24, and was told by doctors that she had only six months to live.
When faced with the life-threatening situation, she said the first thing she thought of was how she was going to deal with it.
She said she was young and not married at the time and so she battled the sickness silently.
Later, she revealed her illness to her family members and eventually came out publicly.
Thirteen years on, Ms Blegg had proved doctors wrong and was an active HIV ambassador and elite sports personality in Australia.
She said she had come this far because she had a positive outlook on life.
She is married and had two children – a daughter named Tia-Rae, aged 11, and a son, Xanda, who is six – who do not have HIV, thanks to expert doctors and medication in Australia.
Ms Blegg said she was here as an ambassador for the Burnet Institute for the AusAID-funded Tingim Laip project as a role model for people living with HIV to encourage them, in particular, young people to live a positive and normal life.
She said by the end of her visit, she aimed to encourage people living with HIV to respect themselves and develop a sense of personal responsibility.
She also hoped to promote gender equality, respect, fair play and sporting values.
As an HIV ambassador, she was looking at encouraging people to have a caring attitude towards people with HIV, and advocate for increased community involvement in Tingim Laip activities and support the role of HIV positive people in projects.
After Mt Hagen, she will visit Goroka, Lae and Port Moresby.