Giving Someone an HIV Diagnosis While Having HIV
It is safe to say that I got into the field of Public Health because of my HIV diagnosis. I wanted to take control of the situation and really be able to comprehend the virus that was now a part of my life and body.
When I was given a positive test result, I did not know what to do or think. I knew HIV was a virus but I never really knew much more about it. My first initial thought, when given my result, was not about HIV at all but about the way the counselor who disclosed my status made me feel.
Getting my test result
I still remember that day like it was just yesterday. A local organization around my house had a small drop-in space for gay or bisexual men every Wednesday and, when I was not working, I always made time to go. They ordered pizza for all the attendees and offered a $10 Target gift card for anyone who wanted to take an HIV test.
I didn't leave feeling comfortable
I still can recall the exam room I was sitting in when they told me that I was HIV positive. I remember the way it looked, smelled, and made me feel. It was very small, only enough space for 2 chairs and a small table, and smelled like latex and pizza for some reason. I am in no way saying that the counselor did not do their job correctly when they tested me. But what I am saying is that I did not leave feeling comfortable with what was just explained to me.
What were my next steps?
All I remember hearing from the counselor was that I was going to be okay over and over again. It did not make me feel any better, because I already knew I was going to be okay. But what I didn’t know was what my next steps would be or, better yet, should be. They told me about taking medication and making sure to stay healthy, but they could not answer the questions as someone already living with HIV.
I knew they tried their best to keep me calm, but they truly will never know how I really felt that night. This is where I really thought to myself long and hard about how I would not want someone who is getting a positive diagnosis to feel lost or scared like I did.
Relating to my community as someone who is HIV positive
I am so fortunate to be able to be an HIV tester and counselor with Los Angeles County because now I am that person giving someone else their diagnosis. I remember the very first time I had to tell someone that their test was reactive. I made sure to disclose my own status to them and ask if they had any questions regarding medication, adherence, or disclosing to others.
Being able to relate to my community in regards to HIV has given me so much confidence in myself to keep pushing every step of the way and to continue my efforts within my community. Whether I give someone a reactive or negative test result, I can now ensure that they are comfortable and confident in themselves to make the next appropriate steps in life.
At what age were you diagnosed with HIV?