Sunday, March 27, 2011

Meet Anthony Polimeni; Founder of My AIDS


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Being positive for HIV is not who I am.  I was born in 1981, so my life has never known a world without AIDS.  When I was born though, I did not know about it and it was not who or what my life was going to be.  Growing up my parents instilled in me that I am meant to be anything I want.  I never said that I wanted to grow up and become an AIDS activist.  What my parents also taught me as well is to be the best person I can be and when I am able to do that I can be proud of who I am.

When I got a little older, I also learned the lesson of connections.  My life is based on my decisions and how those decisions affect those around me.  I understood this when I started volunteering at 14 years old.  By wanting to help others, I decided that being there to help in whatever way possible could change the lives of others.  And in return my life started to change as well.  From that moment on, I realized how much a smile can impact the world.  If I smiled at someone, they felt better and smiled back.  The same was true in the reverse too.  Life is about how we connect individually with those around us.

In May of 2006, I lost my smile when I was diagnosed with HIV.  I had grown up with this disease being around me ever since the beginning but it was never a part of my life.  And now all of a sudden it stopped me in my tracks.  I only knew of a couple of people that were positive and had no idea what it meant now for my life.  That day I got some of the best advice I could have ever received.  I was told that I needed to learn for myself what it meant for me to be positive before I went out to share my story.  After a little while though, I realized that not many stories were being shared.  This disease had become a memorial disease, not a living disease.

One night in the summer of 2006, I decided to start connecting those that were positive with the help that they needed.  Maybe this was because even though I was involved I still did not know where to go or saw that it was difficult to connect, whatever the case I decided to start making a difference.  I gathered up all of the HIV agencies information in Las Vegas and compiled it into one central website called Positive Vegas.  Since that night, Positive Vegas has been retransformed, restructured, and reincorporated as what is today “My AIDS.”

Over the last few years, I have been listening to what people around the country have been saying and asking for.  With all of that knowledge, My AIDS is now ready to start helping those make a difference in their own lives.  And when one makes a difference in their life, it affects those around them.

I bear witness to this in my own life.  I am open about my HIV status and because of that have been able to help dozens of people with their diagnosis.  One day while at the bank, the teller asked what our organization did.  I told her that we help connect people living with HIV or affected by it.  She at that point asked if she could volunteer.  I was stumped because I did not know how to get her involved.  While I was in my car driving away, the idea of coming up with personalized campaigns for people to get involved hit me.  The beginning of the My AIDS Campaign was born.  The teller helped inspire me to create a new way of letting PEOPLE take control and make as much of a difference as they want.  We just help structure and give the tools to them to do it.  It is their faces and their stories though that will make the biggest impact on those around them.  No matter what message My AIDS can write, a personal story and face will change more lives.
These campaigns are for everyone: positive or negative, every race, gender, age, sexuality, location, religion, everyone has a story of how HIV affects them.  I just want to help share those stories and give people a way to see how they impact decisions through the My AIDS Campaign.

Beyond posters for the campaigns, My AIDS is an organization built for you.  Those that are affected and infected have a voice, a story, and a life to share.  From our social network at www.MyAIDS.net to our social support program of Intersects, peer to peer counseling through Poz2Poz, or our other programs launching as well this year, My AIDS is built for the people using it.  We believe an organization is not the walls of our offices but the hearts and souls that make us who we are.

Personally in my life, I see the impact that I have had and look forward to what the future brings.  My story of living with HIV is not over and still has a long ways to go.  I do know already what it feels like to lose a good friend to the same disease that could kill me, not knowing if I am healthy because I have not seen the doctor in a long time, being told no because I am positive, being depressed and thoughts of not wanting to go on, I have been through it all.  The one thing that I do know is I am not alone, and that keeps me going.  Being able to say “I know what you are going through, it will get better” brings my life back to a place of saying I am here and human too.  But that is what this is all about, being human.  We are born, we live, we connect, and we keep on going until we can’t any longer.  But it is what we do that make us, US!  I am very proud now to say I am an AIDS Activist.  I am even prouder to help others say they are AIDS Activist too!

This really is My AIDS Campaign, make it yours too!  Please join me and many others by making your own difference at www.MyAIDSCampaign.org.

To find out more about me and the work that My AIDS is doing, check us out at www.MyAIDS.org

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