Through Anglo American, I was given not only treatment but also the opportunity to make a difference. I went from being a telephone operator to a member of the Sustainable Development team, and ultimately ended up leading the HIV/AIDS programme in Brazil, supporting and advancing the well-being and sustainability of the Anglo American operations and the neighbouring communities.
The work we conducted took information into the sites and beyond, focusing on minimising STD infection and ensuring the fair treatment of HIV carriers. We worked in partnership with employees, communities and NGOs like Reprolatina, spearheading HIV testing, creating awareness and offering support – all the time focused on driving prevention and removing discrimination. It was incredibly rewarding work and we made great progress.
I left Anglo American in 2014, after 30 years with the company. I had planned to take a break get some rest, enjoy my home, grandchildren and friends but in reality that didn’t happen. Within a year I was back out in the community, working in partnership with the Barong Institute. The Barong Institute has a history in which creativity and innovation have been a constant factor in its purpose to attain a unique way of approaching reproductive health. We worked together on various activities and it made me realise that my years of experience could be put to good use and that there was still more I could offer.
In 2015 I was invited to work as one of the two coordinators on the ‘Our House’ project with Roseli Tardelli. The project is a gym for people with HIV/AIDS and my function, in addition to managing the House, is welcoming the people and encouraging them to take part in physical exercise. Exercise is scientifically proven to help in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, it improves the quality of life, behaviors and self-esteem.
Both these opportunities felt like I was continuing my mission of trying to help people to be happy regardless of the disease.
This year, however, I decided to devote some time to my personal projects. I am creating my own personal website which will share all the things I have done and all my experiences. My hope is that it will demonstrate to companies how they can develop their own internal policies and programmes in the prevention of HIV/AIDS, just as Anglo American did.
I believe we can beat HIV/AIDS and I will continue to fight discrimination and stigmatisation to make it happen. Prevention is not a moral issue, it is a matter of information and I am committed to overcoming prejudices to provide that information with engagement and compassion.
When I was diagnosed with HIV, I was determined that it would not define me as a person. I was still Silvia Almeida, I still had something to offer and I wasn’t prepared to be judged simply because I had HIV.
The truth is, however, it has defined me but in an incredibly positive way.