END HIV stigma - Ruan Uys Kokoda

$4,885 of $5,000 goal

Raised by 44 people in 22 months
The mission:
This June I am joining Aussie Olympian, Ji Wallace on an inspirational trek to do the Kokoda trail.

Themed ‘Stronger Than You Think’, this trek aims to break down the stigma around living with HIV. To show the world that the face of HIV has changed (it is now a managable disease), HIV treatments have changed (modern Antiretrovirals =1 pill a day, which makes it easier to manage than being a diabetic), PLHIV who are on treatment and have an undectable viral load CANNOT pass it on, and the impact of HIV on a person's quality of life has changed...

- SO perceptions of and the treatment of people living with HIV (PLHIV) ... NEEDS TO CHANGE..! - 

We know today that a PLHIV, on treatment with a supressed viral load = uninfectious. We are truly fortunate in Australia to have the resources to END the spread of HIV TODAY! But why haven't we? What's stopping us?

The answer is simply one word: ...STIGMA...
Stigma stops people from getting tested, from starting treatment and it pushes people away from social connections where they end up ceasing to self care and some even ceasing treatment.

Who wil benefit:
Please help me reach my target and enable me to go and personally prove through the successful completion of the Kokoda trail that PLHIV can achieve anything they put  thier minds to. And in turn, help end stigma, improve the lived experience of PLHIV everywhere and ultimately END HIV.

Whats needed:
To join this inspirational expedition I need to raise my own funds ($4500) to prove my commitment and in the process help create awareness through the many fundraising initiatives I undertake. These funds will cover everything from flights & accommodation to the equipment (boots, backpacks etc) needed to successfully complete a trail of this level & scale.

My promise:
I will train long and hard to ensure I am fit and able to complete the 100km+ (killer) trail. I will also create a personal Kokoda+ blog in which I will send live updates and photo's, as it happens on the Kokoda trail... To everyone who donated...

If you can't donate, no wakkas! A shared link counts as cash in my books :) 

Past projects and involvement:

https://www.hivsters.info/the-hivsters-camino/

http://goodqualityoflife.com.au/Moment/ruan/

https://www.mylifeplus.com.au/ruan

For more infomation about the Kokokda plus trek please click this link
http://hivfoundation.org.au/news/blog/breaking-stigma-around-living-hiv-kokoda-stronger-you-think

Sincere thanks
Ruan
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Dear supporter,

I am happy to report that the recent Kokoda+ campaign was a huge success. I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one who supported us and helped me to get there. It was definitely one of the most extraordinary things I have ever been fortunate enough to do.

The trail:
Kokoda is exactly how I imagined it, as ruthless as it is beautiful and as relentless on the body as it is easy on the eye. Wake up was at 530am sharp for a 630am departure, with some oats and a strong cup of instant coffee (sometimes two) to get the heart pumping but most importantly, the head ready, for another 7-8 hour hike through lush rain forests, muddy trails that were slippery and dangerous and also river crossings with make shift "bridges" of whatever the locals could find. The highlights for me personally was getting to a patch or break in forestry and looking out across the mountains, with clouds below us and green as far as the eye could see. It was truly breathtaking!

We quickly learnt that there are only two ways the hike can go... either UP... or DOWN... and that there are no 'easy spots' on Kokoda. Its not just about which way you're heading but also the need for constant and unwavering concentration, as one wrong step or muddy patch that you're not ready for can turn an already hard hike, into your worst hiking nightmare. For if you were to injure yourself anywhere along the trail, you will be nursing that injury every step of the way, every day until you reach the end, as there is no other way out.

To make time go by as we dragged ourselves along the trail, we sang, told stories and chatted about everything and anything that popped into our heads. Some days were spent talking the whole way with other days perfect for some introspection and “me time”. There are no rules and it really was up to the individual on how they wanted to get through it all. The evenings were spent swimming in any waterway we could find, this was also the only way to have a "shower", followed by dinner, a quick update on what lies ahead and straight to bed. Believe me, a 5 degree sleeping bag and self inflating mattress has NEVER been so comfortable and sleep came quickly.

We were also joined by a local HIV activist and community leader, Carol Habin, who spent the last of her Kena to get there and completed the trail without a single complaint. She was truly an inspiration to us all and she quickly gained the respect of the people in the villages along the way, as well as our porters. Carol spent some of the evenings engaging with the locals, educating them on all things HIV as well as raising awareness about violence against women, which is unfortunately still happening in PNG today. Carol has since been given a role as community educator and will spend her time doing outreach and educational talks across rural PNG, fighting HIV related stigma and empowering communities to make better informed decisions when it comes to personal and sexual health. We wish Carol all the best and will endeavour to support her in any way we can. She has proven to be a true leader and role model for PLHIV in PNG.

What it did for HIV awareness in PNG:
The campaign ended with a cocktail function at our hotel which was covered by local media and had government dignitaries, socialites and even miss PNG in attendance. Other than it being broadcasted on PNG television, the one thing it did was get people talking about HIV again. It raised much needed awareness about funding restraints, transmission rates in PNG but also the lack of education in rural communities. A few of the attendants were UNAIDS and local non-profit orgs whig were made very aware of the issues and problems that PNG face with regards to His today. This was also were Carol Habin was formally introduced and given her new role as Community educator. I believe our presence and this campaign has ignited a much needed flame at PNG government level and I am hopeful that more support and funding will be directed towards our common goal of educating communities, fighting HIV related stigma and ending HIV transmission in the near future.

What it will do for HIV awareness in AUS:
We were accompanied by am esteemed documentary film crew who filmed, interviewed and documented every step of the way. They are in the process of producing a documentary which will be screened in Australia with the hope of educating the wider community about the face of HIV today and also combat the stigmas faced by many PLHIV. To have a group of people living with HIV as well as people from the sector & healthcare attempt and accomplish something as big as the Kokoda trail will no doubt speak volumes to anyone who watches this documentary and I am confident that it WILL make a big impact on the wider community as well as the lived experience of PLHIV all over Australia. Look out for the documentary’s release!

What it did for me:
I proved to myself that I can truly do ANYTHING I put my mind to. From raising the funds to go, all whilst homeless, couch surfing my staffie, job hunting, speaking at schools about my lived experience with HIV!…. To finally completing one of the hardest trails around without getting a single blister! That is truly an amazing feeling and has given me back some much needed confidence and self worth which I had somehow lost through the ups and downs of the last year. I also know now that I am physically fit and I’m doing well but most importantly, I know that I am mentally strong and ready for anything. BUT… Its not all about me… I could not have completed this trail without the love and support of my team mates on the trail who was there with a helping hand, a word of encouragement or just a smile when I needed it most. And also my porter, who helped me carry my stuff and who probably saved my life a 100 times by grabbing me when I’m teetering on the edge of a cliff or slipping and falling over every time my concentration wavered.

In life we all have “porters” who we need to rely on and who without their help we cannot make it through in one piece. They are the friends and family who are there to pick us up when we fall and help get us back up and ready to keep going. We all have to conquer our own “Kokodas” when something big, bad or unexpected happens to us. And just like the real deal, we need to rely on our “porters” more and know that they will be there to catch us, dust us off and get us back on our feet to keep going at it and help us get to the end.

From the bottom of my heart, ”Thank you” again for your support which made this very worthwhile campaign a reality and I really hope I was able to make you see the value that contribution has added to not just PLHIV in PNG but also here in Australia and also to me. Please feel free to contact me if you would like any more info about this or other campaigns or if you would like to know more about HIV today you can check out my educational page on The Hivsters website: www.hivsters.info


More info:
www.kokodaplus.com
https://www.hivsters.info/main-st/
http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/featurestories/2017/july/20170703_papuanewguinea

Regards,
Ruan Uys
hivsters@gmail.com
The finishing line
Carol, a local HIV activist and legend
The highest point on the trail
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G'day everyone!

So far, I have managed to raise, beg, borrow and 'hog my box' to up to just over 3k. THANK YOU so much to those who have supported me and donated and shared my page. I am now just a 'small' 2k away from the goal!!

Worth a mention:
Someone said to me the other day, "I really wanted to share your page because it's such a good good cause, but I just couldnt do it... you know what queens are like... they'll end up thinking I have it or something..."

Well, my now ex facebook friend, if you can't share an HIV awareness campaign because you're too worried about what people might think and that they may treat you differently, then YOU are part of the problem. Imagine what its like actually living with it... Or even worse, living in a country where there is little to no support for PLHIV.

That conversation alone shows not only the negative impact that stigma has, but that as a community, we are really our own worst enemy. Come on guys! Stop spreading hate and fear, stop labeling and boxing everyone up, or measuring your successes against others "failures" and start spreading some effin love!!! That conversation alone strengthened my resolve to do this trek and to be as loud as I possibly can about it.

Lets start creating a REAL community, a community of love, support and understanding. We keep screaming for acceptance and equality but we can't even accept each other or see others as equals. Until that happens I'm not sure we even deserve it...

HIV doesn't discriminate, neither should you.

Thanks again and much love,
Rx
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BIG love & thank you's to everyone who has supported me to get this far and also helped share my page to gather some more traction. I will make you proud!!!
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Hey everyone!

I have just found out that my very DEADline to get my GoFundMe to 3k is next Friday!!! It has come as a bit of surprise as I thought I had until June BUT I have to pay the trekking company or I cant go... boooo!!

So I implore you, if you can find it in your heart/wallet to help get me to that goal, so I can go and be the BEST stigma warrior the world has ever seen, myself and the people who benefit from this very worthwhile cause will be ever thankful!!

Any amount would help, $5, $10 whatevs! And if you could pls help share my GFM page to help create awareness and assist in my fundraising that would be super duper cool :)
My EVERYDAY Kokoda outfit.. tutu's rock!
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$4,885 of $5,000 goal

Raised by 44 people in 22 months
Created February 7, 2017
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$50
Anonymous
18 months ago
WS
$300
William Schmidt
18 months ago

Doing whatever I can to help such an amazing cause.

LM
$100
Luke Mahoney
18 months ago

Good luck!

BW
$50
Blair Withers
18 months ago

Very impressed mate....good luck

MJ
$50
Merrin Jean-Pierre
18 months ago

love ya guts! you got this! walk like a beast!

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