a woman showing paranoia, helplessness and guilt about HIV in her facial expressions

My First Impression of HIV

When I found out I was immune-compromised, everything started to make sense because the energy that was being produced in the hospital room by my mother and the doctors who disclosed my status to me felt so familiar.

Guilt associated with my HIV medication

I could sense that they were paranoid, hopeless, and guilty which has always been associated with my HIV medication. I would ask my mother often about why I was taking my medicine and when could I stop because I started acknowledging that I was the only child taking medication daily in my household.

My mother would react with the same paranoid, hopeless, and guilty expression that I experienced when discovering my status. I could tell, based on her expression, that the answer was never; she just wasn’t going to say that directly, so she would say, "I don’t know."

Secrecy when taking my medications

My medicine was handled in secrecy. When it was time to take my medicine, my mother would quietly signal to me to come with her into a room when people least noticed. We would separate ourselves from my siblings and my mother's parents when we visited them by going into a room; when we were home, it was the kitchen.

She would pull out my prescription from a cabinet that she knew no one would look into. She made sure to remove the labels from the bottles so that no one can trace my medicine back to us when we threw the bottles away.

My mother's paranoia and guilt

I remember having to take liquid medicine that tasted horrible, and I would always refuse to take it. I also remember when I didn’t know how to swallow pills, so my mother would open the capsule up, put the powder on a spoon with some grape jelly; it was the most disgusting and chalky thing I ever had to digest.

I would give my mother a difficult time. That’s another reason why I was so consistent in asking my mother when I would stop taking my medicine because I struggled every day taking it, and my mother struggled giving it to me daily.

Her expression said it all

Another time that I experienced my mother express paranoia, hopelessness, and guilt was when my mother, my sibling, and I walked down the street. I saw an HIV medicine advertisement and said something along the line of, "Eww, why would someone have to take that?" My mother's expression said it all; that is when I knew I was HIV positive.

An HIV diagnosis wasn't a surprise

So when I was told I was HIV positive by doctors in a hospital room with my mother, there wasn’t anything new to digest; it gave me the clarity I needed to understand past events. After receiving my diagnosis, my mother said, "Don’t tell anybody what you were told yesterday." I asked her why and she said, "Because people can be mean."

She then took my sister and me to Barnes and Noble to get me a journal to write my feelings about my status. My sister felt left out and insisted on knowing why I was getting one, and she wasn’t. My mother decided to get her one so that she could stop questioning us.

I was conditioned to hide

These experiences, which were my introduction to HIV, conditioned me to be paranoid, to hide, and to act like my HIV status didn’t exist.

The foundation of my relationship with my HIV status dictated how I interacted with myself and others for years, and it will always be engraved into me, even if the reasoning is valid or not.

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