A (RED) beverage in memory of my dear friend today. I’m referring to my friend as “they/that human” to honor their wish of staying anonymous- even after death.

It’s been 5 years since Heaven gained an angel who passed from AIDS. My friend was born with HIV, but kept it a secret their entire life because of the unnecessary stigma. They had to hide the fact that they lost both parents and a sibling due to AIDs all within 3 years of each other (this happened while they were in elementary school). As a result, they ended up getting separated from their older siblings who were not born with HIV. That human was doing well for many years after, but being underage without parents, the caregiver took advantage of my friend’s vulnerability and in the end my friend developed AIDs and died a horrific death that I would never wish upon anyone. To watch someone you love waste away to literally skin and bones.. to watch someone who is 100% mentally there, but in a body that has zero fat and muscle mass.. to watch them scream in pain all day every day- so loudly that the entire wing of the hospital could hear them.. for an entire month.. it’s horrific. It’s something you can never forget. It messes you up to know that someone who was once so vibrant was dying a slow, painful, horrific death. To know that the only way to let them go in peace is to take away their feeding tube. How do you say goodbye to someone’s life when you know their mind is 100% fine, but their body and suffering is telling you otherwise? It’s sad to know that they had held so many secrets for so many years— all because of fear that shouldn’t have to be there. Even to the day my friend died, they still didn’t want to confirm what was wrong in fear that the very few people who would visit, would stop coming- leaving my friend to die alone.

Stop the stigma. No child, no adult, NO ONE should have to hide the fact that they have HIV- because they fear that no one will want to come near them. “HIV does not make people dangerous to know, so you can shake their hands and give them a hug; Heaven knows they need it.” Princess Diana