I’m HIV positive.
There. I said it.
Attempting to keep my diagnosis secret has always been a huge burden that I have placed on myself. I’m tired of living a lie. Plus, it’s just not that big a deal. If I continue to hide what I have, I continue to hide what I am. And guess what? I like me.
First, to catch a few of you up. I was born with a bleeding disorder called hemophilia. I won’t get all technical with you because if I were you, I wouldn’t want to hear the bore-fest either. The CliffNotes version is that my blood does not clot. This causes massive bleeding, mostly in the form of bruising. That’s all a bruise is really; a cut under your skin. So when you twist your ankle at the hoops court, you lose two days with nothing more than ice and bandaging as treatment. Me? I’m out of service one month plus, with a baseball sized hemorrhage stuffed into my skin.
Also, add to this that blood has these wonderful proteins and enzymes that eat cartilage, you soon have a crippled, wobbled teenager with arthritis.
However, treatment was found. This clotting agent is simply referred to as, “Factor”. It has gone through many changes and alterations throughout the years, but in the late eighties, early nighties, it was derived from human plasma. Plasma is another fancy-shmancy word for blood. It makes me think of Ghostbusters. Any who, you don’t need to be Columbo to figure out where this story goes. When I was a child, anywhere from 5 to 10 years old, I contracted HIV through my factor.
The medication that was suppose to save my life, is now the same medication that is trying to kill me.
Now, there has been a lot of tears dropped by me and my family because of this. But I’m not here to get into that. In fact, one of the main reasons I’m writing this is because I’m ready to just move past all that. I will tell you, however, the stigma that people with HIV have to be burdened with, is just terrible.
One story I will share is that once, a small group of friends found out about my condition but the good news was, nothing really changed. However, one night we were drinking (like any good set of teenagers) and someone had a bottle of liquor. I remember my friend, was not talking to me and made sure that I didn’t drink out of the shared bottle. To this day, that is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever went through. People being afraid to touch you or to share the same space with you as if your being itself was deadly, has to be one of the worst feelings a human can go through. A modern-day leper. Fortunately, most people will never have to endure that. I did.
However, I hold no ill will towards my friend. Society is so in the dark about this; how can I say I wouldn’t react the same way too? And in all fairness to him, that was many years ago. We have since shared many a bottle, hugs, and tears.
So that’s a major reason why I have tried to keep this close to my chest. Whenever I see a birth control medication commercial, they always warn, “This does not stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV”. Wow. Great. Make sure to give extra special scary notice to HIV. Also, if a side effect was the ability to stop all know diseases, don’t you think that would be the selling point and not period regulation? But I digress…
What I’m trying to ram home is, even though we have gotten better educated about HIV, we still have a long way to go.
The other reason I have not advertised this, I want to be treated the same. It’s funny, but the people who are always at the doctor’s, or have the most medications, are the ones that are the least sick. Meanwhile, us folks walking around with real issues have to get dragged to our appointments. We just don’t like the attention. And it’s the worst kind of attention: pity.
I noticed that people who knew about my condition would talk to me like a toddler. If they got mad at me, they would hold their tongues. I never liked that.
I am not the parasite floating inside my blood stream.
I am not my skin color.
I am not my gender.
I am a child of God, just like you. Nothing more, and nothing less.
So to this day, there is nothing worse to me than a disingenuous person. I can smell you and your fakeness a mile away, so don’t even come near me with that.
Lastly, I have to stop denying it because it truly has been a blessing. It may probably be the best thing that has ever happened to me. If I were you, having just read that, I’d be calling “bullshit”, but it’s true! Let me try to explain.
Going through all this has given me crazy strength, and above all, a perspective on life that few have. This perspective is one of my favorite qualities about myself. How many 10-year olds do you know that have cried themselves to sleep because they would never be able to have children? That kind of introspective thought changes a person. Yes, I have faced many dark days brought onto me from even darker people. But you know what? I have also been a witness and recipient to the most wonderful acts of kindness and love that people can only dream of. And that’s what I choose to remember and that’s what I choose to move me forward.
Nearly all my friends have something to do with my hemophilia and HIV. My beliefs, sense of humor, and smarts, are all things I cherish and most importantly, all these things are derived of my life’s experiences. Would I rather not have hemophilia and HIV, and trade that in to be just another dumb, unfunny guy, who does not understand how the world works? Heck no! That would make me a democrat! 🙂 And most importantly, I would not have you.
Even in romance it has helped, believe it or not. Since I won’t sleep with someone unless I disclose, I have never had one night stands, or flings. And trust me, my sexy, smart self could have had a few, let me tell ‘ya. 🙂 Not only does that mean that I have only been with women I truly cared about, each of these women have been truly beautiful. Do you know what kind of awesome women it takes to sleep with someone who has HIV? I do. They are caring and understanding. They are loyal and confident. They are kind and generous. They are selfless and supporting. And one day, I’m guaranteed to have that as a wife. How awesome is that?
So please, don’t feel sorry me. With the miracles of science I plan to outlive all you that are reading this. I will have my own, healthy children. Don’t runaway either. I don’t want to hear that your sorry, or that your happy for me. Honestly, I’d prefer if you said nothing at all. I’m just like you and your just like me.
I’m HIV positive. And you know what? It’s not a big deal.