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Opinion Pieces


Claiming my own space in Canada: what does that mean for this trini-caribbean, gay, HIV-positive man?

Thursday, 01 December 2016 Written by // Guest Authors - Revolving Door Categories // Social Media, African, Caribbean and Black, Activism, Gay Men, International , Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Revolving Door, Guest Authors

Guest David Soomarie, formerly the public face of HIV in Trinidad and Tobago, reflects on the decisions that recently brought him to Canada.

Claiming my own space in Canada: what does that mean for this trini-caribbean, gay, HIV-positive man?

Facebook has a way of reminding you about your past; some memories are pleasant and others are not. A couple of days ago, it took the liberty of reminding me of when I made the decision to become an HIV activist. It was in 2008. Eight years later, I consider myself fortunate and blessed to be continuing my journey, which began from a simple newspaper article.

As I write this, I am in a totally different space from where I was then, physically and psychologically. If I was in my home country of Trinidad & Tobago, I would be mentally and physically preparing myself for a hectic schedule of media interviews and presentations.

Suddenly, like the way we are extra charitable at Christmas time, we become socially charitable to the reality that HIV is still around and there are people infected and affected. I willingly did the interviews and presentations because I felt that I had a responsibility as an HIV activist to do so. It was the only time that one had to challenge and change mindsets, to offer hope and encouragement and even advocate for better conditions.

However, I always questioned this short attention span on HIV. For me and for many others, HIV is not a one day cause but a 365 day reality. As an activist, I was (and still am) concerned about the lack of attention and focus on this issue. Because of this lack of seriousness, I began to feel that it was just tokenism.

Over the last couple months I have made some very deliberate decisions that have changed my path. I simply could not be riding the waves and not think about the effects of their battering. So I stopped.

I began my own journey of self reflection and thinking more clearly about my life. In other words, self love is now my focus. In taking this time to engage in some introspection in a space that has allowed and facilitated this process I am uncovering some truths about who I am, core truths that I managed to evade in my hectic life as an HIV activist.

Somewhere in my eight years of activism, somewhere between the politics of managing an organization, responding to client and funder requirements, and fighting to ensure a space in the hearts, minds and pockets of the state, I became a walking zombie.

This World AIDS Day is different. Yes, I am still participating in events but cautiously so. I’m now not only navigating space but seeking to claim my own space. What does that mean for this trini-caribbean, gay, HIV positive man? Only time will tell.

About the author: read more here.