"All your so-hard facts, painted thinly on the void;
Why were you not more pleasantly employed?"
-- "Puppet Song", The Incredible String Band,.
At this point, the news about PositiveLite.com has been out for a few days and as you might imagine, it’s been a bit of an emotional time here at the palatial PositiveLite Editing Suite.
For a long time I’ve had various ideas about how I might want to write my final blog post here, but now that the time has come, I find myself not wanting to do any of them. How do I say a good goodbye to the people and the project that have been a way of life to me for the last couple of years?
My journey with PositiveLite.com began soon after my diagnosis in 2014, when I started to write about my experiences. At that time there was already talk among the team members about shutting the site down. I didn’t like that idea and so I took the reins as editor, hoping that I could help stave off the inevitable for another couple of years. And what years they’ve been!
We were not exhaustive in our coverage – with no budget and a tiny staff, how could we be? But we covered the HIV news and issues we thought most important and did it (I hope) fairly, respectfully and with a touch of humor. We gave people living with HIV a voice and a forum for that voice and those contributors made PositiveLite.com shine.
We were instrumental in bringing Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U) to Canada and abroad. In fact, I wrote about it early on, here. We have also been instrumental in developing science based messaging and knowledge sharing around the risk of transmission and U=U in particular, which has permeated the entire network of agencies working in HIV prevention. That addresses prevention, treatment access, adherence and stigma reduction and contributes to attaining key targets like 90-90-90. And on the legal side, here in Ontario, people with an undetectable viral load are no longer being prosecuted for HIV non-disclosure.
Far from feeling defeated now, I celebrate all this and more: my involvement with PositiveLite.com is among the things I’m happiest about and proudest of in my life.
During this time, PositiveLite.com has been my voice, my teacher and my window on an HIV landscape that was rapidly changing and is now changing even faster. We’ve never been closer to ending the epidemic, yet never farther away, as key HIV populations become target populations in much of the world. Disinformation is rife and stigma the rule as diametrically opposed world views fight for supremacy in the head of the average Joe, whoever that is – someone we know? Yes, of course.
So I believe strongly that unaffiliated peers and independent, peer-driven media have a crucial role to play in our HIV response, especially now. The PositiveLite experience (GIPA in action) has borne that out time and again, especially with its role in the U = U Campaign (also GIPA in action). But PositiveLite.com is done now. We have driven this particular vehicle as far as it will go. If community members decide that they need a forum where they can be assured of real information and responses that aren’t hollow at the core, one that celebrates them rather than attempting to manage them, then such a forum will be created somehow, but the PositiveLite team are dealing with other realities now.
This project, this team and this community have inspired, goaded and sustained me all this time, by giving me something that many peoples' lives lack in modern times: the chance to feel wholeheartedly affirmative about something.
Brian Finch, John McCullagh, Bob Leahy and Wayne Bristow; you have all done so much for so many and your knowledge has helped me out so many times along the way. So has your wisdom. And thanks for your patience in putting up with the new kid. I’ve learned lessons from you that I know will serve me well. It’s been an honor to work with you and to be able to count you among my friends.
And thanks as well to all the writers who shared their knowledge and their lives with us, perspectives we wouldn’t find anywhere else. And thanks to the community and the activists and true allies like Bruce Richman, Danny Ssemuli and Willliam Matovu, Jeff Potts, Ed Wolf and so many others, not only for your work but for the inspiration you have given me. I’ve met a staggering number of fantastic people through PositiveLite.com – maybe now I’ll have the chance to get to know some of them better.
And thanks to anybody who read us and to my Face Book friends community for all their love and support. In fact, thanks to anyone who supported us. And thanks to anyone who didn’t – you supported us more than you know.
I’m already dealing with a brand-new, rural reality, having recently moved with my two cats to Millbrook, Ontario, a picturesque little community that’s often used as a location for movie shoots. It's all much more quiet and bucolic and healthful-seeming than I'm used to and I'm liking it, but I'm going to need some time before it really sinks in. And then there's the whole aging thing and I'm still not very good with this "old guy" stuff. What I thnk of when I hear that isn't me. I need some time, I think, to make sense - or something - of these things.
And yet we’re still here, obviously. It’s worth noting that most of the PositiveLite. team members plan to maintain some level of community involvement, so it isn’t really goodbye. Our paths will cross before long, I predict, as we venture across this shifting landscape to confront whatever we must. I’ll be looking forward to it.
For now, I want to celebrate what we did here. Thank you PositiveLite.com. It's been a stellar ride and the lessons learned will go to good use.
I hope what we’ve presented here at PositiveLite.com has helped you in some way.
For all the apparent risks, and they are many, I still sense great possibilities for us in the times ahead. The PositiveLite project may go dark but the work and the journey go on, so it's time to get cracking.
Love yourselves and don’t go quietly.