DOREEN POLOH WAIM
A FORMER Australian tri-athlete who is living with HIV has taken a courageous step and is on a visit in Papua New Guinea to share her story to advocate against the spread of the epidemic and to encourage others like her to lead a normal life.
She is here as an HIV ambassador with the AusAID-funded Tingim Laip Project under the Burnett Institute in Australia.
Despite being HIV positive, Deanna Blegg, 40, from Tasmania, has led a normal life after being diagnosed at the age of 24 in 1996.
Doctors had told her then that if she was lucky, she could live for five years.
She is now married and has two healthy children, an 11-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son.
She did not explain but said that she and her husband had seen a doctor and were able to have babies that were not positive.
Sharing her experience during an awareness session organised by the Igam Barracks HIV/AIDS committee at the barracks yesterday, Ms Blegg hoped that she could inspire others to live positively.
She also hopes that her message can educate other people to learn to protect themselves.
Ms Blegg said when she first learnt of her diagnosis, she thought it was impossible when she was an educated and smart sportswoman.
She said she felt stupid, ashamed and feared herself when she was among other people.
It was difficult, but after revealing her status to her family, she said she started to have support.
Eventually she began telling her friends and colleagues.
Ms Blegg said sharing with others had helped her to become stronger and have a positive outlook on life.
But she added that it was also important that communities were educated and learn not to discriminate against those living with HIV/AIDS.