In November 2015 I was diagnosed with HIV and was in a late-stage and about to progress to AIDS status. And being a refugee in Cairo, Egypt facing the possibility of deportation back to war chattered Syria was the least of my concerns.
My real fear honestly was not death or deportation. At that moment my biggest fear was the stigma and shame that comes with the word HIV+. I had no one to talk to, no one to help me understand hell, no one to tell me everything is going to be okay even if we both knew it wasn’t. I wasn’t out as a gay man so imagine having to come out as HIV+.
So I decided to tell the closest person to me, my twin brother. And that wasn’t a good idea because for a while I lost the only person I trust with everything and more than anyone. His response was not the best.
(he is very loving and accepting now he was just ignorant at that time)
Three months later I had the chance to go to Lebanon to get the treatment with help from friends. But still, it was a temporary solution as I was able to afford no more than three months of the treatment cost.
In April 2016 I met with a UNHCR resettlement officer and had to come out to a complete stranger and tell my story in hope for a chance of resettlement. In that particular moment I was telling the story while I was repeating in my head “please don’t judge me”, “please don’t make fun of me” and “please don’t tell anyone” but of course I couldn’t say that to this nice female Egyptian UNHCR officer so instead I burst into tears and rushed to the washroom.
Two months later that same nice officer called me and said “Canada accepted your case, we can proceed with the paperwork if you’re interested” and that was the first time in my entire life I cry from happiness.
In October 2016 I arrived in Toronto and it was certainly my biggest win.
We still have more battles to fight as even in Canada not everyone has access to the HIV medication and stigma still exists here and embedded in our society until this very day but talking about it is the first step.
about the author:
Mohammad Ali was born in Daraa city in the south of Syria in 1991. graduated from the English literature and translation department in Cairo university in 2017 before moving to Canada permanently to pursue a career in journalism.
For more information follow on: