deanna_bleggIt can be difficult describing me as a person without including HIV, or having it define who I am. I like to think I live life independently of it and it doesn’t affect me. However, daily there are constants, little reminders, like the pills I take, the snippets I hear in conversations, and the reality of the imperfections in how my body should function.

It hasn’t always been this way. There was a time it was constantly on my mind, and coping was a daily challenge. It was forever present and yes, it so defined the direction of my life.

Diagnosed in 1994 at the early age of 24 and given 5 years to live, it was a huge STOP sign in my life when I had always felt life consisted of green for go.

Being, fit, healthy and an athlete I never thought HIV would be a part of my life. How wrong I was.

Fortunately, due to the combination of HIV medication, much support from family and friends and a healthy outlook on life, my health improved as did my vision for the future.

Being a part of the Positive Speakers Bureau has been a very rewarding journey. The training and education I have been given, combined with life experience, allows me to educate the wider community. Story telling is a very powerful communication and education tool. It has definitely been a two way journey. The telling of my story and the acceptance and encouragement from the audience has definitely given me strength and courage to lose all shame associated with the virus. It has given me the strength to step forward in the community and be completely open about my status. To be well educated about HIV and STI is something I am really passionate about and I encourage everyone to make informed choices.

Being solution focused was my main drive to achieving many successes in life. Yes, I have HIV in my body but how can I still achieve my goals?

Having children was something I was originally told not possible. My daughter Tia and son Xanda are healthy, beautiful children and both living examples of following a dream. Many other HIV positive people are having children. A gift we always had thought was unobtainable.

Health and fitness are still a vital part of my everyday life. Reaching elite levels in adventure racing and travelling internationally to compete has blown my mind. It is something I’d never have thought possible. It has once again proven the power of having a dream, setting a goal, and then making a plan.

In every day life I hear too many people making excuses why they can’t do things rather than finding a reason to do it. My life with HIV is an example of how to make your own journey of life regardless of the obstacles that can be thrown your way.