A November 2016 update from Editor Bob Leahy
In August 2014 I wrote about the death of our youngest contributor, Mirvan Ereon.
I never met Mirvan, although - and this speaks to the role of social media in the modern world and in the HIV community in particular - we knew each other well. For reasons I strive to understand, I have never been more moved by the death of someone with HIV than this. I still cry about it. And, be warned, you may well too.
Some context: on World AIDS Day we traditionally look both backwards and forwards. Amidst this, we reflect on where we are now. And amidst this tsunami of thoughts, we are driven to remembering our losses, So many millions of them make for an almost abstract concept of loss. How, after all, can one get one’s head around 35 million deaths? Simple answer is “one can’t”
35 million! Such a hugely horrific number leads us to narrow the mind’s focus to the lives of those we knew personally. Today PositiveLite.com narrows the focus even further. Mirvan’s story, though, is the story of AIDS. Mirvan is not his real name; he had to hide it. That is the story of AIDS. He died young, very young; he was from a foreign country, he was an advocate, a fighter. He loved being sexual and he didn’t want to die for it. He left others grieving. That too is the story of AIDS.
So at PositiveLite,com this World AIDS Day we are shrinking our world view rather than being expansive. We aren’t going big picture – we do that every day. Instead we are asking you to read the story of one person.
Mirvan’s story is our story.
We can never forget, nor should we try.
August 18, 2012
It was both brutal and entirely appropriate that we learned of Mirvan Ereon’s death through social media, just as we had connected with him in the first place. But that's Twitter. 140 characters or less is all it needs to break your heart
Mirvan was diagnosed with HIV in February 2012. He was 21. I wish I knew more about his life prior to then but I don’t. It’s the nature of our business that while we try not to be defined by HIV it is the thread that connects us, and cruelly, sometimes hides the details of our lives that perhaps matter the most. So others will need to fill in the gaps. Mirvan had many friends so that should not be difficult.
He started writing for us after responding, very enthusiastically because that was how he did everything, to a call for writers. We took to him immediately. Feisty, sex-charged and incredibly full of life, it's nevertheless clear he had been sick for quite some time. His CD4 count then was just 2. “I made peace with myself and with the virus” he said in his first post. “I am embracing this sickness with open arms. I want to be friends with it because it will now be my companion all my life. It will never ever leave me so I might as well start learning how to cope with it”.
His last post for us was a month ago. In it he talked about the stigma on which the virus thrives. But he seemed full of hope and optimism. He wrote “HIV/AIDS can be contained and people living with it can now have normal lives and a normal life span. I have met a lot of people in real life and online who have been living with the virus for decades and all of them are fine and functional. It made me feel hope. I am empowered and inspired to live a long, healthy life with them. Truly, this virus is not the end. The reality of HIV/AIDS is far more optimistic than what the media is showing to our people.”
It was not to be. Mirvan had written to me frequently, initially with much formality, addressing me as "Mr Leahy” and “Sir”, which I quickly got him to drop. He was full of questions, asking me how explicit he could be, if it was OK to swear, if he was being too preachy, about how much he liked writing for us. But then came a series of more worrying emails advising me that his condition had worsened. His emails began to show signs of the bizarre – he told me that he had found the cure for AIDS, that he was to get a Nobel prize – and it was clear his mind was playing tricks on him. We continued to correspond until the replies petered out two or three weeks ago. I wrote him a week or so ago but there was no reply. It was clear there was something wrong. Then twitter filled in the gaps yesterday.
Mirvan was a remarkable young man, a lover of life, determined to change the world, and in his own sweet way, he has. He underlined for all of us that HIV is a disease which we can challenge and overcome – that was his ambition – and that while most of us will win, it’s the sad truth that not all will achieve that goal.
He had a mission to educate others. Here is what he once wrote “I do not want any other person to be infected with HIV. I want them to learn from what I have endured and experienced. I want them to realize the value of safe sex. There is nothing wrong to have sex. It is just that we must always do it responsibly and with protection. I want people to realize that learning to love yourself above anyone else is really the greatest love of all."
Mirvan was prolific, to say the least. He maintained several blogs besides the one on PositiveLite.com. He was also a poet. Here is the last poem he posted on one of his other blogs, The Sexy Squid.
I have sores all over me:
They scar my fragile surface
Spanning the universe
Of my feeble flesh.
I gasp and sigh.
I hear the delirious
Whispers from my thighs.
These are not moans
But the sole sounds of my bones
Breaking into mourning.
Maybe I should be glad
That something still feeds on me.
I want this love to die
But it cannot be.
It is the disease
Which runs alongside
The potent malady in my being.
Compromised I will forever be.
But with you, I find the strength
To make myself immune
Against all this insanity
Oh my! Mirvan, what a way with words you had! We'll miss your crazy emails, your uninhibited personality, your unbridled love of life, your bravery, your passion. From all of us here at PositiveLite.com, goodbye, sweet man!