What Do You Have To Lose?
I was diagnosed with HIV back in 1998. I was maybe 21 at the time, I think. I believe it was at a Walgreens store. There was an outreach program, and somebody there was conducting HIV tests. I believe I found it by just walking by, so I walked in and got tested. What motivated me to get tested was that I had contracted several STIs from the partner that I was dating. After we had broken up, I continued my sexual activity with others as well. I contracted STIs one or two times, and I just figured I should probably just get myself checked for HIV.
When I found out I was HIV-positive, I felt like everything just stopped. My heart missed a pulse. Everything just became slow motion, and I didn't know what to say or how to behave. I was in a state of shock. I didn’t tell anyone about my status for a couple of years, outside of my HIV support group. The HIV testing site referred me to see a doctor, and from there the doctor’s office referred me to the support group for people living with HIV. That was my way of saying things in a closed environment. I sought help, and I acted out by continuing to have sex with people that were obviously older.
My sexual practices, prior to finding out my status, were that I was looking for love in the wrong places. I was not practicing safe sex, and I had multiple partners. I just didn’t face my emotions. I never talked about my past. Everything just came crashing down when I hooked up with someone, and he passed me an illegal substance. That helped me along the way to crash faster into depression. That’s when I stopped using my medications for periods at a time, and I became homeless, living on the streets. I was living from place to place with people I met online. Eventually, my things were stolen, including my medications. Probably the longest I’ve ever been without taking medication was almost three weeks.
Then, my brother took me to a treatment center to get help. It’s what I needed. I wanted to stop using illegal substances and get my life back together again. My health is good right now, and I’m sober. I’m seeing the light now. I’m seeing that I’m able to forgive. I’m finding different techniques and processes that I’m going through now to heal myself, like seeking substance abuse treatment. I am undetectable and have been since 2007. I’m practicing disclosing my status with partners. I am adhering to my medication regimen. What do you have to lose? The truth may hurt you, but what matters is how you’re going to handle that. The truth will eventually lead you to a better understanding of yourself and what behaviors you need to modify.