Editor’s Note: Brad Crelia attended last Saturday’s AIDS Walk and he reveals why this was a milestone for him.
|Brad and friend|
I signed up for the Seattle AIDS Walk and Run over a month ago. I’ve previously enjoyed them and always ended up having a pretty fun time. The walk is one of a handful of times when you can immerse yourself in the queer Capitol Hill community. It’s a great feeling being around thousands of like-minded people.
But this walk was different for me. I was diagnosed HIV positive in March. Because of my new diagnosis, I felt that participating was now a necessity seeing that this walk was now for people like myself. I had to be a part of it.
Since my diagnosis I’ve been very open about my new status. That might actually be an understatement as I have grown comfortable fairly quickly with the new reality that comes along with a positive diagnosis. You basically have to come out again. Luckily for me, this time it was a lot easier than the coming out to my conservative-Christian, Texan dad when I was thirteen. My friends and family have been indescribably supportive.
After signing up, I honestly forgot about the Walk until it was a week away. Right around that time my thoughts and emotions changed. I knew there were going to be a lot of LGBTQ people there, friendly people, people who are trying to help. But I also remembered when I wasn’t positive and how I judged positive men for being unsafe and played into that negative stigma. Walking this year as a newly diagnosed HIV positive man would be another new thing to add to a long list of new things since my diagnosis in March…things like pill cocktails, labs, levels and a monthly doctor’s appointment. I was nervous and anxious that the tables were now turned and I could be the one being judged.
The morning of the Walk I got on my bus from Queen Anne heading to Capitol Hill and sitting in front of me was a mother with her daughter and her daughter’s partner. They told me how important this walk was to them and that they had raised $700. That was a great start to the day and helped ease some of my tension. My ex-boyfriend was joining me on the walk and I went to his apartment for coffee and breakfast to energize a bit, neither of us being morning people.
The walk to Volunteer Park was when I started feeling pretty bad…painful almost. My head was engulfed with thoughts like, “I am HIV positive”…”I have this disease; why me?”… thoughts that I previously assumed were taken care of but I guess four months of therapy doesn’t cure newly diagnosed depression.
The nervousness, anxiety and sadness stuck around while we got to the park, checked in, got our shirts and began listening to the speakers. One speaker really got to me, a mother telling her story about finding out she was positive, having doctors telling her she didn’t have long to live and the heartbreaking steps she took to ensure her daughter would remember her after her death. I wanted to cry but couldn’t. I felt frozen.
After she was done, the organizers started directing us to the starting point for the walk. That’s when I saw the people surrounding me…people like the family on the bus; people who care; people who care for that mother and her daughter, who care about their friend, or loved one affected by HIV/AIDS and they care about total strangers.
- Brad Crelia