A person speaking out while surrounded by dark speech bubbles of negativity.

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

When someone has been living with HIV for over 2 decades as I have, you begin to do your research, read and study in order to educate yourself on the unpredictability this disease can have on your health from time to time. I have done my best to use what I have learned to prioritize my health with my "eat well, live well, be well" way of thinking, but 2023 did not go as planned for me and brought a battle for my mental state.

I walked into the New Year excited about the new season of my life with my eye's wide open to whatever life had in store for me and my wife, Jerilyn. But - things took an unexpected turn. Before I knew it, I ended up in the emergency room twice with what the doctor's called a "cardiac infarction." The next thing I knew I was undergoing blood work, MRIs, CT scans and going from doctor to doctor with more prescriptions being written.

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Overcoming a wave of health battles

Wait, I'm not done yet. The cardiac MRI revealed nodule in both of my lungs – 2 in my left lung and one larger nodule in my lower right. With that one being larger, my pulmonary doctor ordered a biopsy of it, which turned out to be cancerous.

With all the issues that I was having to deal with, the premature ventricular contractions (PVCs), lung cancer, and fighting kidney disease, I was forced to resign my position as chef at a local mission tasked with feeding the homeless.

Now, I don't know about you, but that is a world wind of events within a years time.

The ignorance of others

Here is the reason why I am saying all of this - in the middle of all that is going on in my life someone asked me if this had anything to do with me having AIDS. Now, I have been living with HIV for 25 years now, and have been undetectable for 20 of those years. At this moment my CD-4 count is the highest it has ever been and increasing.

If I didn't know who I am, I would have gotten offended and probably would have reacted in a much different way. That comment really stung, because I am a Pastor and as being so my wife and I have been telling our story for several years now. The person that asked me that question was a fellow pastor friend of mine.

The thing that really gets me is how little understanding people still have. The ignorance to the difference between HIV and AIDS, or the refusal to educate themselves any further about the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

It has been over 40 years, that we know of, since the first cases of HIV have been discovered and yet people are still ignorant in the way people who carry this deadly disease are treated.

It starts with you

This disease takes the lives of thousands each year, just like cancer, but HIV does not carry the same sympathy or empathy. I am talking about the dehumanization of those living with HIV more than any other diseases or sicknesses. Things have got to change and that change was needed yesterday.

I lost my father in August 2014 to prostate cancer - he was a Pastor as well. He and I did not have a great relationship throughout my growing up. Our relationship was challenged even more so after he found out that I had contracted HIV. He never asked me what happened or how I contracted the disease because he just did not want to know.

With everyone talking about loving one another and treating people like human beings, how about it starts with one person first - you.

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