Positive since 2012
Hei, folks! I am an HIV-positive person and artist living in Helsinki, Finland. I have quite a shocking story with HIV.
After some career burnouts in Finland, I moved to Berlin on August 26, 2012, with my friends and my beloved cat to start a new life. It was all very nice, and I loved the city. After three weeks, I got a little cold, which soon worsened to the point that I couldn’t stand on my two feet anymore. On September 27, I was taken to a hospital because I was so sick. The doctor looked at me, noticed a couple of red marks on my arms and said, “You have AIDS.” I said, “No, it can’t be.” But I was wrong.
The next two weeks were really blurry because I went into a psychosis due to a fever and the bad news. I even tried to run away from the hospital many times, so they hired a nurse to sit next to my bed 24/7. When I came to my senses, I couldn’t even speak properly, but I could hear, and I learned that my life had changed forever. I was HIV-positive and had serious pneumonia, and my prognosis was uncertain. I stared death straight in its eyes for a year.
In mid-November, I moved back to Helsinki. I spent three more weeks in the hospital, and then I got out.
The most horrible part about getting AIDS was the fact that I also got a very bad case of Kaposi sarcoma (KS). When I first took a look in the mirror at the hospital, I was shocked. I thought, “This is it. My life is over.” But it wasn’t. Slowly but surely I got better. When I finally stopped taking the antibiotics for the pneumonia, I was on chemotherapy for the KS. Lesions were all over my body, and they still have not faded. But I have not given up with them. I am trying laser treatments, and if they don’t work, I will go to a tattoo parlor.
The reason why AIDS struck me was that I hadn’t been tested for far too long. In the beginning of the millennium, I read some false media sites online that claimed that HIV doesn’t exist and fell for it. It was a horrible mistake and almost killed me. I was extremely stupid and felt shame because of that.
How do you survive something like that mentally? How is it possible? I know! You talk about it.
So I did. I talked to my friends and family. I am also an educated artist. I put my experiences and emotions into my art and used it as a therapy. I overcame the shame and other negative feelings. I also got involved in activism through the Finnish organization of HIV-positive people Positiiviset. I realized that I am not alone.
I have taken quite shocking pictures of my struggle and survival with AIDS. I had an exhibition of my pictures here in Finland. The name of the exhibition was The Persistence of Plastic. I also told my story in the largest Finnish newspaper. I thought that audience would judge me for being filthy, gay and stupid. But something strange happened. The reception was overwhelmingly warm, which totally surprised me.
What I have learned from this, and from life in general, is that you have to be open no matter what you are going through. That is the only way you are going to really survive and thrive after hard times. You have to take the masks off.
I am now ready to present my story internationally, and I think that this is a good place to start. Please check out my website where you can see the pictures and my artistic statement and put them into your heart if you feel my story has touched you. I am ready to speak out as I have already done in Finland.
My story is a universal story. It’s not just about HIV, but it’s also about humanity and what it is like to go through life being true to yourself even after you have done things that sometimes make you feel like you shouldn’t be proud of yourself. But I am. I stayed true to myself and had the courage to show it to other people with my art.
Love to you all! You can contact me though my website if you wish. I am all yours. This is a new beginning.
What three adjectives best describe you?
Courageous, joyful and colorful.
What is your greatest achievement?
Being true to myself in this world.
What is your greatest regret?
What keeps you up at night?
My work and nature. I love cats, which are creatures of the night, and even they go to bed before me.
If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
The amount of shame people carry with their positive status.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Be true to yourself.
What drives you to do what you do?
I believe in a better world and better humans.
What is your motto?
Be true to yourself!
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
A tiger. I love tigers. They are strong, beautiful, pure and rare.