What an amazing day I had on Friday! I had the great pleasure of attending a workshop facilitated by the Queensland Positive Speakers Bureau (QPSB) and it was fantastic. Helen, the QPSB Coordinator, came up from Brisbane and we met at the Cairns Sexual Health Service facility in Cairns North.
There were eight of us altogether, four with hepatitis C, one with hepatitis B and three with HIV. It is such an unusual experience to have a group of positive people together like that, with everyone sharing their stories and experiences. The stories were incredibly moving, with a couple of people telling of being near death at the time of their diagnosis. One was because it took so long for her doctor to even test for HIV because she didn't fit what he thought a person with HIV looks like. Another because he went to a bridge and was ready to jump off because he was so afraid and he didn't want to put his family through the shame. Truly extraordinary stories, both with positive outcomes, as they are now on treatment and doing well.
The woman with hepatitis B told her positive story about investigating her disease and catching it just in time as her liver progressed to cirrhosis, and now she has an undetectable viral load and abundant energy. That was a very happy story. One person is at week 36 of their 48 week treatment for hep C and is optimistic about the outcome, while another was told a month ago she had relapsed after her 48 weeks. The other person treated with monotherapy 16 years ago and cleared yet because she still has symptoms she still presents as hep C positive. That brought up a bit of lively discussion.
As we told our stories we were given feedback because the purpose was to prepare us to speak in public about our experiences. The QPSB is nurturing a body of professional speakers who can use their personal stories to educate the public about living with HIV and viral hepatitis.
The day was a rich and rewarding experience. For more information about the QPSB have a look at the website: http://www.qpsb.com.au/