Suzanne's Story

I became HIV-positive in 1992, while I was working in Africa. I'm a health professional, but like most of the 20 million positive women worldwide, I was infected by my long-term regular partner.

The challenge for every positive person is to take back control of their lives, in "Living Positively" with the virus. I'd always believed that good health was never maintained only by taking medication. More than ever, HIV reinforced for me that health is not just physical health, but also mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

An important part of the healing process for me is to be active in HIV/AIDS education, support and advocacy. I volunteer in a number of HIV/AIDS organisations, and in particular Positive Women Victoria, because the impact of HIV /AIDS on women is very different than from men.

I think it's been the hardest for my family. I must be cautious about how my participation impacts on them, but slowly, slowly they have accepted the value of my contribution as an HIV-positive woman and health professional. It's really important to break down the stereotypes about who gets HIV.

As a positive person, I want to make sure that HIV never happens to anyone else. We can't prevent HIV by punishment, by stigma and discrimination. It's only through building a safe, supportive and caring environment, that positive people like me can be visible in our community, to educate and advocate, to take better care of ourselves and our families.

It probably sounds an odd thing to say, but HIV has enriched my life in unexpected ways. I really value life and the time left to me. I have not yet progressed to AIDS, but meanwhile, the acronym has an alternative meaning for me - Acquired Inner Development Syndrome. However, there are still so many millions of positive people in the world who will never be so fortunate as me.

We're someone's daughter, partner, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt. When we get HIV, it impacts on our families too.