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Having HIV Doesn't Define Me

Stories Of Promise

In 2011, I was a pastor of a church. I just wrote my first book, and my wife was cheating on me a lot. I had a mental breakdown. I quit my job at the church. I left my family because it was devastating to me that she could just keep cheating on me like that when we had kids. My wife and I were separated since 2011, but we had sex once in 2012. She was the only sexual partner I’d had since the last HIV test that I’d had.

In 2013, I got a job at a law firm, and I thought I was like back on point, you know. One day I went to lunch with a friend of mine, and they had one of those big buses outside. I was like, “Bro, we got time, let’s go give some blood.” The following month, the health department came to the law firm where I worked, and they were looking for me. They told me I was HIV-positive. It freaked me out. At that point, I had only had sex with my now ex-wife for like 12 years, so it was pretty crazy. I mean, I had no clue. I didn’t know it was associated with my blood. I just wasn’t up to date with how you found out. The last time I had an HIV screening before then was probably in 2011.

I started going to the doctors right away. I’ve basically been undetectable ever since. I got on medication right away and started adhering to it daily. To me, it was the only thing that really made sense. I don’t understand when people don’t want to get treatment. I didn’t want to live like that stigma of people looking really sickly and stuff.

I’ve disclosed my status to family and friends now. When I first found out, I told them that I had lymphoma or something like that. I didn’t want to say HIV, but I had to tell them it was something because I'm going to the doctors and taking these pills. Then the following year came, and I decided I was gonna tell people that are really close to me. Nothing changed. I was worried about nothing. The only thing that really changed is like, let’s say you’re hanging out with your cousins, and they’re smoking a blunt. When it comes to being my turn no one says anything, but there’s a really big elephant in the room, so I just go, “Oh, I don’t smoke” cause they’re thinking, “We don’t want to smoke after him.” It’s been years, so now we’ve been able to have conversations about how HIV is transmitted, and that it isn’t transmitted through saliva.

When I decided to become sexually active again, I wore condoms. I had to learn it’s my choice who I give my body to. If I think that the person isn’t knowledgeable, I just don’t do it. I’m just grateful that I was able to get on medications quickly. Having HIV doesn’t define me. It doesn't change anything. I learned that I’m just a normal person that happens to have HIV and with the medications now I live a lot longer. Make sure that you know that the longer you wait, the worse it's gonna be, and that it’s not a big deal.

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