Never Give Up On Yourself
In my addiction, I prostituted a lot. I rarely used condoms because I needed the money. When I was withdrawing from drugs, I really didn’t care about protecting myself. I was told that the person I was with at the time had HIV. He was a drug dealer. I was so in my addiction that, since he had the drugs, I didn’t care really. I had gone to jail one time, and I decided to get tested in jail. It came back positive, so that’s when I found out. It didn’t really surprise me that much, but it was still scary. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. You can get meds in jail, but it’s like they don’t care. It was after I got out of jail that I went and saw a doctor and started meds.
I'm pretty sure I had gotten out of jail maybe two weeks after I had done the test. I went to the hospital because I had some kind of infection or something. The people were going around doing HIV tests, so I said, “You know what, let me take another one.” I took another one that came back positive, and they gave me some information. There was a lady there that helped me out a lot and got me introduced to Ryan White, ADAP, and all that. I was linked with an infectious disease doctor too.
I was not good with taking my medications after first being diagnosed. The first month that I was on the medication it made me sick. I was nauseous all the time. My addiction had picked back up when I came out of jail. My drug of choice is crack and heroin. Every time I took the medication and smoked crack, I would throw up. In my addiction, crack was more important than my HIV. I stopped taking the HIV medication, so I wouldn't be sick and could smoke my crack.
I am seven months clean now, and that’s the longest I've ever gone. It’s like I want to be clean now. I have some clarity back. I am motivated and my self-esteem is higher, you know. I feel more comfortable with myself and my peers. My grandpa died last February, and I have so much guilt because, in my addiction, I didn't spend any time with my family. I just want to be able to spend that time with my family, so that’s a really big motivator. I just want to have a normal life. I want to have a job, go to work, and pay bills. Your addiction doesn’t have to be like your end all. Just never give up on yourself.
It’s better to get tested than to live wondering. Honestly, my health now is better than it’s ever been. You get so much care, medical care. It used to be called a death sentence, but it’s not. I know people that have been living with HIV for 30-40 years. I know it can be scary to get tested and get the results, but a happy, normal life is very possible. I take my medication every day, and I'm undetectable now.