Being from Reunion Island, a French territory in the southwest part of the Indian Ocean, I was raised in a Christian family. As an adult, I converted to Hinduism. Life took me that way. Similarly, life brought me HIV. HIV is socially dangerous because it is linked to sex, but most of the time people don’t know that you can get HIV without having sex—by injection or by blood transfusion.
And so now I have HIV. Should I commit suicide because I am positive? I considered it, thinking about what people would say. I kept my status quiet for eighteen years. Over time, however, I have come to love my HIV. Although the infection is there in my body, I appear healthy. I take a yogic approach to HIV.
One of my meditation techniques is to go inside myself and reflect on how many billions of cells we have, just like the Milky Way’s billions of stars. Are you a universe of cells or a cell of the universe? I teach yoga and teach my students to feel all the cells of their bodies when they move and to start moving like stars. The mind is a powerful tool to feel this energy potential and, if you can discover and use this potential, it can help you manage your HIV.
And I love my HIV, because if I fight it, I am losing energy, whereas if I love it, I am gaining energy. Plus, I have found the courage to speak about HIV to people and I enjoy helping. Once I became open about being HIV-positive, so many programs came to me. HIV has brought me around the world.
I have known stigma since childhood. My father passed away when I was a baby, and my grandmother spoke badly about my mother. I moved to France as a teenager and people at school would say, “You are Zulu. You are from Africa. You are cannibals.” As an adult, I came back to Reunion. Being a white man, I would be judged for going to the temple. And now, I am talked about for being HIV-positive.
Therefore, I am used to stigma, and my experiences help me go beyond it. Stigma is there because of ignorance. It is the same with HIV. At the beginning, people thought only gays have it. Now we know it can be everywhere. So through knowledge, we can remove stigma.
I want to teach people that I can live peacefully and joyfully with HIV. It is my scientific and spiritual challenge. I am a living example that, with HIV, you can live a good life. There is no problem.