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HIV Is Not The End of My Life

Stories Of Promise

I contracted HIV in 2010, and I found out through a routine doctor’s appointment. I had been having unprotected sex for pretty much 10 years before that test. My cell count was low. I had been without insurance for about 5 years. I got insurance through a job, and I figured, “Let me go to the doctor for a checkup.” I had been having sex with people who were HIV-positive without condoms. I didn’t think HIV was a death sentence, but it was a life-changing event for me. I was a little bit ignorant about it. I didn’t have just HIV; I had AIDS. My CD4 count was so low that it was AIDS, and I was like, “Let me live fast.” I started doing more drugs and risky behaviors. That was my answer to it. I was trying to speed things up, so I would have a shorter life.

I had been using drugs for 23 years, like hard drugs and intravenous drugs. The first thing I ever did when I woke up was hit the pipe. It became part of my routine. To me, sex and drugs were together. In my particular world, condom was a bad word. Most people didn’t ask if you were HIV-positive. You either assumed you were HIV-positive, or you were on PrEP, or you didn’t care. In the midst of my active addiction, I did so many crazy things, like share needles with blood. To me, contracting HIV was like a sign or something to just live your life fast, and it’ll extinguish faster.

When I went to treatment, I brought drugs with me. I started doing GHB with this guy I met in treatment. I forgot that you have to measure it, and we wound up unconscious. I like overdosed, and they had to rush us to the hospital. I got kicked out of treatment. That was my rock bottom. I felt so low at that point.

I’m more open about my HIV status now. It’s taken me like 12 years to get to where I am. When I turned 50, I had such a big celebration. To me, turning 50 was like, “Wow you made it to 50; what a freaking miracle.” Now that I’m almost 5 months clean and clear-minded for the first time in 23 years, I know that HIV is not the end of my life. I want to live, which is something that I never used to say. I used to skip my meds on purpose. I don’t skip my meds anymore. Now I’m part of my family’s life again, and they see me growing. My mom is so proud, and it makes a difference. She doesn’t have to tell me to take my pills because she knows I’m taking my pills. I really want to help people that were maybe in my situation and be engaged in HIV awareness, telling people that it’s not the end of the world. It’s a bump in the road, and you have to adjust to it. I believe now that there was something or someone in the universe looking out for me.

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