I’ve got some exciting news. It lays out my happy future with the man I love in a country I’ve come to. Announcing this news also opens up the door to more than I have yet to pronounce to the masses, however hand in hand all must be revealed.
Two weeks ago I received a letter from our friends at Immigration New Zealand saying, “I am pleased to tell you that your application for a New Zealand resident visa has been approved”.
I’m in! What great news indeed. After my partner and I had poured ourselves into all the necessary docs and stacks of corroborating evidence, after pinging them back with a second wave of requested details, we really didn’t know if I’d be approved, at least initially.
You see although I’m legally civil partners with a contributing member of the society, tax paying myself, and doing my part to raise the greater consciousness through my writing, I still had one strike against me that could have made things heavy, as it had when I originally applied to get in two years ago. I have HIV.
I can’t explain the anxiety I have just writing those words. Even though this month is my 10th anniversary of contracting this diabolical little bug, it’s not a milestone I’ll bake a cake for – or should I? With the help of tender medical professionals I am virtually free of it except for its indelible brand on my DNA. Even with it, a wonderful man who is free of it himself fell for me. It’s also raised the urgency of my life, driving me to live for the now and jump shores to move around the world for love.
It sounds like the decade hasn’t been all bad, eh? True enough, but it hasn’t been solid gold either. There were times I was very sick, forcing me to marry my meds forever. It’s been a prickly reality that has actively dictated many choices over the years, professional ones in particular where in the U.S. I couldn’t go without work, causing my “pre-existing condition” to go uncovered to the tune of $5000 a month. My plight has brought me fear, anguish, sexual discrimination (yeah, whatever), and even an unwanted level of hypochondria. It’s nothing I ever wanted in a million years, especially after losing my first lover to it 17 years ago, but a lapse in proper judgment has brought me here.
It really got scary when I feared it would keep me from my husband. My original NZ Work Visa application was denied because I didn’t meet the health requirements for entry. Even though we got through it by pleading for a Medical Waiver (and man did we pour it on), it was a humbling time when I had to bear my soul and sell my value to NZ society. I promised I’d give back through love and tax, and it appears they feel I have.
My Resident Visa was submitted last December, after the announcement that HIV would no longer be considered as a major factor against applicants, but we really didn’t know what this would mean to us. As with all government documents and websites, there is always room for interpretation. In the back of their minds they might have known they’d let me in all along, but could have made me jump through a few more hoops to get there. They could have asked for more tests, professional affidavits, testimonials, proof proof proof that I posed as little threat as possible to the Kiwi populous. We had no definitive roadmap, no firm land before us.
When the approval letter arrived on the 20th of April the giant spaces between the lines clearly said “HIV is no longer an issue”. I can say this because other recent changes to the Resident Visa process allowed the application to run solely on the medical evidence from my original Work Visa in 2010. They didn’t ask me for anything additional related to my disease. Even the local clinic that provides my HIV support was astounded. They’ve supported hundreds of folks with HIV in the region and have participated in dozens of such immigration cases, but having a client with a known condition who didn’t need to provide any medical docs for was a first.
Perhaps I am the first, case Number One in a new era of HIV acceptance. Whether that’s true or I’m just the first to speak of it, the fact remains that it’s now real. If you have a legitimate reason to be in New Zealand, particularly one that binds you to one of its citizens, then it appears this bug may no longer of major concern.
With that statement, a very stern caveat is in order: HIV is nothing to be tossed around. It’s a bomb that can damage not only your body but your mind. It still holds a stigma, even for me. In writing this I know I’m outing myself to my employer (present and possibly future) should they Google me (as they already have). I know it shouldn’t be an issue, but we all know how the uneducated mind works and there are plenty of them out there in this quiet, relatively rural land of surprisingly traditional family values. Within our rainbow bubble all is cool, but out there… In writing this I’m facing my fear and asking you, Miss Sexy Diva Public to watch my back. Let’s pray we never have to revisit it.
The bottom line is that I’m sticking around for a while. I get to keep cuddling with the man (and dog) I love, I’m free to exploring more of Middle Earth in all its glory, I can continue to share my views on our fabulosity, and I’m gonna VOTE! Ten years into this disease I’m encouraged by how things have progressed and that logic has prevailed. May such sanity spread to other parts of this world where it’s deathly needed. In the meantime, I’m happy to stay. Thanks!