On this day last year — between 4 and 5:30 PM — I submitted to, and then received, two preliminary-positive HIV test results. Though it would be days before I would undergo bloodwork to determine the specifics of my disease, it took mere moments to realize that my life would be changed forever.
My first thoughts were of the people I’d recently been in contact with — of the six individuals with whom I’d physically engaged with throughout the entire year.. Who? What? When? Where? Why? Doing what? How? Could it have been prevented? Was it something I had done? Was it something they did? Was it something that could have been prevented? Or was it, by mere happenstance, simply meant to happen? These thoughts, and more, went through my head–when, in but one drop of blood, my future. and potentially the future of several others, was revealed.
I went through the steps to contact each individual. Some were shocked. Others were sympathetic. One was downright volatile. My meeting with the Disease Intervention Specialist from the Health and Human Services Department was invasive, embarrassing, humiliating and completely and utterly depressing. It’d be months before I would be admitted to treatment. Hours of paperwork would need to be filled out. And, most horribly, was the aspect that I had exposed several people to a violent, incurable, and incredibly-stigmatizing disease.
A year to the day, my life is, in a word: normal (or as normal as it could be.) I get up, grab my phone, check Facebook, drink a soda, eat breakfast, shower, and go about my day normally. I suffer chronic pain as a result of the infection (which I will deal with for the rest of my life,) and I navigate hurdles related to my serostatus (mainly dating,) but beyond that, my life has changed very little.
I, in layman’s terms, survived.
My life did not end when I contracted the Human-immunodeficiency Virus. My future did not crumble around me. My aspirations did not dwindle, nor did friendships fade away. None of the people I exposed became positive as a result. If anything, I learned that the majority of people are undoubtedly good — and, if asked, are more than willing to help.
I may have a slightly shorter lifespan than most people (though not by much.) I will always deal with random bouts of chronic pain. I will be at a higher risk for certain illnesses due to my compromised immune system. I’ll suffer stigma due to the lack of education surrounding the disease. I’ll also face discrimination from potential partners. But regardless of those things, I am healthy. My viral load is undetectable. My T-Cell counts are incredibly high. My spirits, though sometimes daunted, are generally in good standings.
A year ago — while lying in bed, crying at the thought that my world was going to end — I never thought I’d be able to say this:
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.