The Responsibility Is On Me
I am white, 61-years-old, and I am gay. I was diagnosed with HIV on November 21st, 1984. I've survived HIV and addiction for 38 years and I have every intention of continuing. I was told I have this new gay disease. I was put in isolation in the hospital. I found out because I had night sweats, fevers, and swollen lymph nodes. They did a blood test, and my test results were positive.
At that moment, I felt terrified when I got the news. My friends were dying of HIV, and they were dying horrible deaths. I’m pretty sure my mode of transmission was through unprotected sex. I was having very risky sex. At that time, I was high on drugs and alcohol, I did anything with anyone anytime.
Before I was diagnosed, I grew up in a town in Connecticut. I played football. I was in the school plays, but I was a loner. I knew I was different growing up. My husband and I were high school sweethearts. We started our relationship in high school when I was a sophomore, and he was a junior. Eventually, he went off to college and I went to New York City. In New York, I got deeper into drugs and alcohol. Around the time I was diagnosed, I entered rehab for the first time.
After my diagnosis, I began treatment in 1998 and I've been through a lot in my life. I attempted suicide 11 years ago because I was overmedicated. I was on eight different psych meds. Eventually, I saw a new psychiatrist and they lowered all my meds. It's been a resurrection.
Today, I manage my medications thoroughly. I take Biktarvy once a day in the morning. I have my breakfast and I take my medications. I have a very organized life with my meds. It's a coordinated and uplifting routine. I get up. I sit and I meditate. I've learned, especially with my medical challenges, that I must live one day at a time. I have a mentor who has been working on positive thinking with me for the last 30 years. I've learned how to practice turning every negative thought I have into a positive one. I'm better and better at it now. One thing I have learned is not to let perfection get in the way of the good and the great. I've also been attending HIV support groups since 1984.
I've learned over the years to trust others. It's literally not only saved my life, but it's helped me to grow and change. I have realized that the responsibility is on me. I must use a condom. I must go to the meetings. I must take my medicine. I must take care of myself.
If I could say something to anyone newly diagnosed, I would say please talk to your friends, get support, and find an HIV-specific organization to assist you with your diagnosis.