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COVID-19 Through the Lens of an HIV Survivor

May 15, 2020
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During this time of confinement, Jacques picks up his pen.

A loyal contributor to the Je suis séropo blog, (where Jacque’s  piece was first featured) and spokesperson for the Je suis séropo campaign, Jacques offers his thoughts on COVID-19 and how, as a  long-time activist in the fight against HIV/AIDS, he finds himself  experiencing a second pandemic.

Living a Second Pandemic

I have experienced the AIDS pandemic, which isn’t even over as many people living with HIV yet to have access to the treatment to control the infection.

I am plunged into another pandemic: that of COVID-19

Barely recovered and still living in the hope that a vaccine might soon appear, I am plunged into another pandemic: that of COVID-19. It's like I just went back forty years. Our youth didn’t experience this period. The general population –– apart from those who have lost loved ones –– has  little or no memory of the crisis. Even among people living with HIV, many  diagnosed after the year 2000 are unaware that between 26 and 43 million men, women and children have been infected with the virus to date.

I am one of those who have buried hundreds of people

At 75, I'm one of the people who remembers.  I'm one of the people who's still here. I am one of those who have buried hundreds of people, who have fought and are still fighting to fight an enemy that has become visible, but one that is slow to eliminate. Living a second pandemic wells up a lot of fear and sadness, but it also offers up hope, and my belief in the human capacity to grow through these painful times. At my age and despite my ardent desire to fight, I must nevertheless realize that my weapons must adapt to the  reality of aging.

I like to tell myself and all the people who read this: life will always be stronger than death.

I’d still like to have the strength to be out there on all fronts, walking the streets to help the most vulnerable. Yet, I find myself homebound, condemned to follow the evolution of the pandemic day by day, bruised by the eyes of people judging me for wanting to get out for some air... Despite the physical distancing, I remain in contact with isolated people struggling with mounting anxiety. I reflect back on my daily life. I'm upset, saddened by what's happening, but I'm still alive. Also, I like to tell myself and all the people who read this: life will always be stronger than death. Some will leave us, but there will be survivors,many of whom will be remembered.

Once upon a time, a virus came down on Earth. We did not know when the disease would stop. But one day it ended. And humans began to live again, with their strengths and weaknesses…
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