To Achieve Equity and Justice
We Must Be Visible
December 1, 2002 – Casablanca, Morocco
I’m afraid. I’m in bed, covers up to my chin, shivering, and sweating.
Kamelaki? On CNNi, there’s a mother in rural China. Her son, home from his job in the city, is sick in bed. Like you. He’s dying. … Do you have AIDS? Are you dying?
No, Mom. It’s the flu. It’s been going around.
I hear her worried voice, still.
It turns out it was HIV-seroconversion illness.
On World AIDS Day, 20 years ago, I became HIV+.
I was well-informed. I co-founded the AIDS Awareness Coalition for Education in college, our first HIV peer-education student club. I wrote my senior thesis on HIV-prevention in the US and Morocco. I trained as an HIV pre- and post-test counselor. Still, years later, I was careless with my self, my body, my health. Self-destructive and in denial, I chronically and compulsively used drugs and sex to “cope” with undiagnosed ADHD, anxiety, C-PTSD, and depression. It got bad.
Thankfully, eventually, I found other ways to get relief, and I got better.
I sought help. I got connected to care. I admitted I had a problem. I prayed for sabr,patience and acceptance. I dove into therapy. I found support and compassion. I let myself be loved.
Today, I have HIV. It is undetectable, untransmissible.
Today, I strive to stay on a rightly-guided path of healing, justice, equity, and compassion. I stay away from drugs and alcohol: the costs and risks outweigh the benefits to me. I seek to stay humble. I pray and ask for help. I offer it.
Today, the compulsion has lifted.
Sharing my story helps others and me as well. It helps me heal from shame, re/connect with community, and with resources. Muslims, I believe must advance justice and equity, via deeds, words, even thoughts (e.g., challenging our own biases). Visibility acts to blunt stigma and discrimination, advancing equity and justice. Being visible as a Muslim, given Islamophobia and racialized hatred which also is harmful and can be internalized, is important too.
I lean on my Islam for healing and solace. I meditate on some of the Most Beautiful Names we use to call on Allah: Ya Latif, Ya Rahman, Ya Rahim, Ya Haqq, Ya Hayy, Ya Muqtadir, Ya Ghaffar, Ya Samad, Ya Sallaam, Ya Razaq, Ya Wahab, Ya Khaliq, Ya Nur, Ya Waaliy, Ya Ra’uf. (My grandmother would croon, Ya Latif, Ya Latif, Ya Latif. Oh Gentle, Oh Kind, Oh Subtle [One].
By divine design, Muslims initiate prayer nearly every time by intoning Bismillahi ‘r-Rahmani ’r-Rahimi, “In the Name of the Divinity, the Loving-Kind, the Forgiving.” Nearly every Qur’anic chapter, from the first, Surat-al-Fatihah on, starts like this. The root word for the Loving-Kind, the Forgiving, Allah’s Names we (re)cite over and over, is rahmah — nurturing womb.
The All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Ever-Present, Eternal One created me, gave me life, nurtured and nurtures me still. Today, I strive daily to accept, honor, and remain grateful for that gift.