I've spent the last month sending out proposals for funding for the Positive Heroes Ultra-Marathon Team. Five, HIV+ Individuals, who run some of the world's toughest endurance races (including the 90km Comrades marathon), who take their ARVs on the run, who sometimes train on empty stomachs, and who refuse to let a diagnosis define them.
The team work in their communities as 'walk it as we talk it' counsellors. They role model a more optimistic version of life with HIV than the usual gloomy message.
After all, they should know what's possible and what's not. They run ULTRA-MARATHONS for God's sake! Running a marathon is a huge ask of any body, and an Ultra even more so – imagine the ask of a body whose immune system is compromised. Could there be a better way of demonstrating that HIV is not a death sentence?
Evie, Ken, Masi, Willie and Barb don't think there is. So we take the message; in the form of fit, bright eyed, saucy-humoured runners, out to the communities that surround these races. And they tell their stories, and take questions and bring hope.
But it's expensive – and we're a small NGO – so we can't afford to keep doing it without help.
To that end, I do hours of research. I fill in applications, I make countless calls and photo copies. I pare words down until they fit electronic forms. And I send them off. Then I follow up – by email, by phone, by email, by phone, by email … you get the picture.
Nothing comes back. Not even a form letter telling us to take a hike. Nothing. Sweet F-A.
It's not as if I'm asking for a fortune – we need R80k ($11K, £7K) a year. Actually, no, that's not even my point. It's the principle. The proposals I have been sending are directed to an individual by name. To the individual who does the job concerned. I'm offering them to become involved with a key health issue in our country, one that affects every business. And I am offering them to become involved in a positive, forward thinking, simple, healthy way.
And they don't have the decency to answer me. WTF? I used to get a good couple hundred emails every week. They always got answered. “I'm busy” is no excuse.
But, I refuse to quit. After all – I've learned, from five of the VERY best, how to run a marathon.