IASONEVOICE: THEN AND NOW SERIES
JAIME LUNA, 29
Diagnosed with HIV at age 22
Country of residence: Panama
Take us back to when you first learned you were living with HIV. What did it mean back then and what does it mean today?
When I learned that I was HIV positive, it was a shock. I think this is how most people who are diagnosed feel in the beginning. I wanted to quit my job and my university studies because at that time, I didn’t know anything about HIV and thought I would die. A few months later, I attended a support group, which helped me to learn everything that I needed to know about my new condition. Today, I have been working for more than five years in the HIV response at the national, regional and global levels. I work towards empowering other people living with HIV to think positively and focus on improving our quality of life.
Have you ever encountered any HIV-related stigma? Has this changed over the years?
I encountered stigma just one year before I graduated from university. I won a scholarship to study for a master’s degree, but they rejected me when they found out that I was HIV positive. I hope that people living with HIV will face less stigma in the coming years. As long as we have to deal with stigma and discrimination on a daily basis, we need to keep fighting.
Looking back, what has been the one key lesson that living with HIV has taught you?
The key lesson that I learned from living with HIV is that even if we have to face drawbacks and challenging environments, every day we have a new chance to change people’s thinking and the world around us. I have a lot of hope, especially when it comes to changing young people’s mindsets. To me, changing people’s mindsets is the best way to recognize and realize human rights.
What role does HIV play in your daily life?
HIV plays an important part in my life. I take my medication every day and try to be a good example to my peers because treatment increases our quality of life. As a chemist, I always try to understand and explain to others how the medication works in our body. Every day, I take time to talk with at least one person who needs advice and some good conversation to feel better.