Name: Joeli Colati
There is a peculiar silence associated with HIV in many societies. This silence means that there is little or no acknowledgement that HIV as an issue that the society has to deal with. People in the community who know that they are infected with HIV cannot talk about their status because of the very real fear that family, friends and community members will reject them. And as the silence, fear and rejection persist, so the virus thrives.
Breaking the silence and confronting the stigma and discrimination that surrounds HIV are among the most effective weapons we have for tackling the epidemic in every community.
My name is Joeli Colati and I’m 26 years of age. Being infected with HIV for the past 4 years is being the perfect filter to my life. I have been introduced to exceptional people and everyday heroes I would not have met otherwise. Being infected I know that I have rights to knowledge, rights to speak out and be heard, rights to be respected and rights to have love. I continue to develop true and real human relationships with my family, workmates and friends. I have found a beautiful support system. In addition my definition of "success" has become more vigorous. Because of HIV I know I have no limits.
In 2007, I decided to disclose my HIV status with my main motivation to help young people to realize that HIV has no boundary this is due to being infected from my very early aged. I personally believe that Young people will change their attitudes and behaviour in ways that reduce vulnerability if they are well informed of HIV risks and prevention strategies. I started work at Fiji Network for People living with HIV (FJN+) in 2009 with my role is facilitate advocacy and education programmes of the organization. In my terms with FJN+, we received high demand from youth communities to conduct awareness and trained them to be gate keepers to other young peoples through Stepping Stone skills and Life skill training.
I have been an active member for SENPEF (Support Empowerment Network for Peer Educators in Fiji) where we not only raise awareness about young people’s issues but renew there pledges to ensure universal access, human rights and individual responsibilities are realized and given the attention it deserved.
Fiji has a cumulative figure of 366 HIV positive cases (from 1989 to 31st December 2010. Statistics shows that 20-29 year age group as the most affected with 44% of all HIV cases. For the broader productive age group of 20 -49 years, the percentage is 85% for last year.
What motivates me is that young people have to take concrete joint actions to address the disease head-on and rise to the challenge and the need to increase their knowledge on HIV/AIDS such as the way the HIV virus is spread, how to protect oneself against becoming infected and treatments available for the infected.
Adjust their attitude by spreading the correct information in their immediate circle of influence such as friends and family members and lastly embrace compassion and acceptance towards people living with HIV.