5 Questions with Daniel Sands, Peer Research Associate for the Making it Work Project

Daniel is a Peer Research Associate with the Making it Work Community Based Research Study. 

What first piqued your interest in the HIV sector?

After I got healthy and strong enough to go back to work after my own HIV and cancer diagnoses in September 2015 and following treatment, I began working in the HIV sector. Firstly, with one of the AIDS service organizations that helped me early on with my diagnosis. Now, I serve on three community advisory committees, and a couple Boards of Directors for HIV non-profit societies. I guess you could say it’s been quite a full circle!

How do you see the impact of your work?

My mom often tells me that I have helped her understand and learn about HIV. As an educator, I’ve spoken to many people and shared my lived experiences which reduces stigma and puts a human face on what can be an abstract idea for some.

How do you engage the community in your work?

As a person living with HIV and lived experiences in homelessness, mental wellness challenges, substance use and sobriety, and other challenges, I feel I’m an ambassador to people about my lived experiences. I may not have a PhD but I am an expert in my lived experiences!

If you had unlimited funds, which areas of research would you invest in?

I personally have changed the way I see money and my relationship with it. In the past having money meant I was happy, and when I didn’t have money I wasn’t happy! It was quite a rollercoaster ride that had an unsettling impact on my mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health. Today I have removed the impact and hostage-like control money had on me, by understanding that in the natural world, money is irrelevant. A deer has never had to use a Visa to pay for plants to eat. A plant never had to get a loan from a bank to pay the sun for energy. While I cannot change the fact that almost all human culture runs on money, I can change how I see money, how it impacts me, and how I use it. If I had unlimited funds I would remove money from the entire global economic system and return to a system that doesn’t exclude some people and benefit others while unsustainably exploiting the planet.

What is the natural talent you’d like to be gifted with?

I am satisfied with the natural talents I already have. I believe I can do anything and learn any skill, it just takes practice, persistence, and perseverance. If this were not true when I was a baby trying to walk I would have fallen down once and never tried again. I’m profoundly grateful to be a human, this time, because I can imagine things then create them, I can learn, I can grow, I can develop skills, I can share, I can use all the tools, skills, and knowledge passed down through generations to better myself and the world.