To My Younger Self
Nobody could figure out what was wrong with me. I remember thinking, what's going on with me? I had lost a lot of weight and got pneumonia. My friend who was older and HIV positive said, “Chris, you need to go get tested. I'll go with you.” I said, okay, let's go. Two weeks later, he went back with me and I got the results. I had a feeling I was positive before the results, so it wasn't a shock when I found out that I was HIV positive, more a feeling of relief, but also a little fear. I had let it go for so long and I'd lost so much weight. I immediately flashed back to all this hypersensitive information from the 1980s that the news had put out there, if you get HIV, you're going to die. At the time, I was diagnosed in 2003, I only had one or two examples of people who were HIV positive for years and years, and who were living a healthy, normal life. That's where the fear came from. Wondering how soon am I was to die?
I started treatment as soon as I got my results. Funny enough, I had a hard time swallowing the pills. The doctor found me something that was in powder form that would melt in liquid. That's how I took aspirin, which is disgusting. Once you taste those medicines out of the pill form, or they're already dissolved, you make yourself learn how to swallow the pills, so I learned. When I started taking the pills, because my T-cells that help fight off viruses were so low, they were giving me very strong and potent medications. My body would react to the medication by causing me to throw it all up. My immune system was so devastated that the strength of the medications was causing me to reject them. Eventually, the doctor found something that worked for me.
Unfortunately, I did have a problem with treatment adherence back in the day. I would take my medication and go to my doctor's appointment. Then, when I started feeling better, I always just stopped going to the doctor. I would take whatever refills that I had left, and I'd go on and mind my own business. I would start feeling bad again and I'd go back to the doctor. In 2016 after finding a new treatment where I felt the people really cared, I realized that was not the person I wanted to be. It took about eight different tries on and off medications for me to finally have that aha moment saying I want to live. I must keep going to the doctor, even when I feel good!
I would tell my younger self to stop being scared. You are who you are. You can't change that part about yourself. All you can do is make sure that you do not allow it to harm anyone else to the best of your ability. Quit messing around and all those times I wasted going on and off medications, I'll never get back. I'm not upset with myself about that. If I could change it, I would. I'm the healthiest I've ever been in my entire life. For over a year now, I am undetectable, and cannot transmit the virus. My T-cells are higher than they've ever been since I was diagnosed.