British Columbia·PRIDE AND PROGRESS

Indigenous voices head up Vancouver's 2018 Pride Parade

Vancouver Pride Parade Grand Marshals, William Flett and Lulu Gurney will represent all of those who contributed to 'A Mile In Our Moccasins' — a short film about the lived experiences of Indigenous youth living with HIV.

William Flett and Lulu Gurney are thankful to represent Indigenous youth living with HIV

William Flett is the positive programs co-ordinator with YouthCO HIV & Hep C Society. He is one of four grand marshals in the 2018 Vancouver Pride Parade. (William Flett)

Two of this years Vancouver Pride Parade grand marshals have been working to raise awareness about what it's like being Indigenous and living with HIV.

William Flett and Lulu Gurney are two of the filmmakers behind a short filmed called A Mile in Our Moccasins which tells the stories of Indigenous youth from diagnosis to acceptance.

While both were young when they were diagnosed, they each faced a unique set of challenges.

Gurney — who was diagnosed at 23 — was addicted to drugs and alcohol leading up to her diagnosis and continued down that path as a coping mechanism.

"Being so young and not having the ability to reach out to services that were there, it was something I found was just easier for me to be living with HIV and drinking and using drugs," Gurney said.

"Some of the challenges that I faced along the way was being able to open up and reach out to people and also let people know my status."

As for Flett — who was diagnosed at 18 — he struggled with the waiting game that came from the original tests they took.

"Basically the way my first test result came back, was that it came back as inconclusive. They explained that some parts of the test read as positive but some parts of the test read as negative," Flett said.

Flett says he was confused by the original results and had to wait one week for a more conclusive test.

Telling the story

Both say the making of the film and the advocacy and workshops that have gone with it have helped them in their journey and healing.

But those journeys resulted in very different stories.

"I've generally been openly positive for a while," Flett said.

Because of this, he found it difficult to decide what parts of his story to share, but eventually his peers reminded him that his story was relatable for many who have already accepted their status.

Gurney, who took a little longer to comes to terms with her status, says she hopes that her experiences will help people acknowledge how hard it can be to share.

"I really enjoyed putting my story out there," Gurney said.

"The message I would like to convey …  is so that we all have an understanding of the similarities we all face when disclosing our status to people — just how hard it can be in every moment to build that courage and be able to say, 'I'm HIV positive.'"

Vancouver Pride Parade Grand Marshals, William Flett and Lulu Gurney will represent all of those who contributed to 'A Mile In Our Moccasins' - a short film about the lived experiences of Indigenous youth living with HIV. 8:23

This story is part of a series called Pride and Progress that airs on CBC Vancouver News at 6 and The Early Edition throughout Pride Week, July 30-Aug. 3.