Lone Star Ride Journal
To say I have been humbled by the entries in the Lone Star Journal up until now would be an understatement. Personal challenges, being part of something bigger than yourself, not letting a team down, doing something for those that cannot do for themselves, remembering loved ones who have died — all of these things remind me how powerful the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS (LSRFA) has been, is now and will be this Sept. 26-27.
LSRFA has become a second family to me — powerful, inspiring and unstoppable. Upon joining LSRFA’s Advisory Board in 2009 (after riding my first time in 2008), I hoped to accomplish one thing: Help fight the stigma and shame that comes with being HIV positive.
Since January of 2005, I have been faced with a constant choice. Will I become a victim of my past mistakes or will I accept the consequences and make a difference with the life ahead of me?
The news of my HIV status impacted me differently. I was/am educated and aware.
I have, since age of 17, been tested every six months. I knew being HIV positive would not be a death sentence for me as it was for those we’ve lost. It would mean a long life in a new reality.
But what would that new reality be? Hiding from intimacy and fearing rejection? Did it mean that I personally was worth less than those that were not positive since they didn’t have HIV? And who would be standing beside me in support?
The truth is, after being positive for more than three years, it still took me until just two days before the 2008 LSR to make the decision and cycle as an HIV positive rider.
I decided it was my time to do more than accept my reality and live with the status quo. It was time to find out who would stand by me. It was time to take the fight further than just my personal, safe sphere of friends and loved ones. It was time to fight the stigma I face every day and continue to witness friends of various socio-economic statuses struggle to overcome.
In just over two weeks, it will again be time to do all of these things. I will ride out as an HIV-positive rider in the 2009 LSRFA. I found a group who will stand by me.
For those who cannot yet fathom why I "come out" as positive, or why it’s anyone else’s business but my own, I ask you this: Without a positive role model (pun intended), how can anyone overcome shame and fear to grow and lead a healthy life? How will we ever educate our younger generation to protect themselves and own their bodies and actions?
And without your support, what will my efforts ever mean?
It’s time, community of mine. It is time for us to not only continue the seemingly insurmountable task of finding a cure, but to support those who are fighting every day of their lives to live.
Regardless of whether their struggle is with unstable health, unstable finances for impossibly expensive medication or because they are afraid and ashamed of their reality, it is time to recognize the new struggle in front of us — the stigma your HIV-positive friends, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands and children are facing on a daily basis.
It is time to fight … and it is time to ride … and it is time to give.
For those we’ve lost and those riding with me, I ride to say thanks. I won’t let you down.
For those who join LSRFA by sponsorship, crew, or as a rider, for those who wonder if they can be the hero to inspire change in our community, for those who just aren’t sure they can cycle that far or raise that much money — I have two words: SADDLE UP. You can do it. We all ride together.
See you on the road.
John Tripp is chair of the Rider Retention Committee for Lone Star Ride. The Lone Star Ride Journal will appear weekly in Dallas Voice through Sept. 25, the Friday preceding the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS on Sept. 26-27.
For more information on Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS, or to donate, go online to LoneStarRide.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 11, 2009.
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