a pager with HIV advice in the past

Wishes for My Younger Self

"You can't be overwhelmed by the what-ifs, or you'll miss out on the best part." ― Rebekah Crane, The Upside of Falling Down

When it comes to living a life with HIV, there are many times that I have laid in bed wondering the what-ifs about my earlier years. These what-ifs had led me to have some pieces of information that I do with my younger self knew back in the day.

These vary from staying single, being assertive in relationships, being better educated on sexual health, and being more assertive with the medical community. While wondering about what-ifs will do me no good at all, I hope that the things I wish my younger self knew can be helpful to somebody else.

Staying single

One of the things I wish my younger self would have done is stay away from the opposite sex until after college. I am (and so are my doctors) pretty positive that I contracted HIV towards the end of my college life. While many assume this means I was promiscuous, I was not.

It appears a man I dated and trusted, decided not to inform me of his health issues and passed it on to me. He passed away from pneumonia, so nothing could be done to address this issue once I was made aware.

Being assertive in relationships

I wish that my younger self knew how to be assertive. It was not until my adulthood that I learned how to be assertive and that it was acceptable to do so. It is still something that I struggle with at times.

In my youth, I wish I was assertive enough to enforce the need to wear protection during sex. The only concern most people had back then had been becoming pregnant.

Be educated in sexual health

Additionally, I wish I was more educated on sexual health. A basic high school sex health class was not enough for college's big bold world. I was not taught the ins and outs of PreP. At that point in my life, I was unaware that PREP was something everyday people could take to prevent the chances of acquiring HIV.

It was not advertised on TV or at the doctor’s office. What is more, I was so quiet and reserved, that I needed that advertisement to know it was acceptable to ask about it.

Be assertive with the medical community

After my diagnosis, I learned that the gynecologists that I had been seeing every year, were not testing me for all sexually transmitted diseases (STIs). I did not know that I needed to request a blood test in addition to what was being done during my well-woman examination.

Since I was not being sent for blood work, I was not being tested for HIV, syphilis, herpes, and Hepatitis B and C. The vaginal swabs only check for cervical cancer, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. My younger self could have used this information.

Furthermore, I have lived with chronic migraine since 2009. I was previously somebody who only had a migraine when I was really stressed out. Eventually, I became a person who was having almost daily migraines. Between 2009 and 2016, I saw so many neurologists and headache specialists.

None of these doctors took the time to consider testing me for HIV. This is surprising because about 50 percent of individuals with HIV and AIDS suffer from some type and intensity of headache. I without a doubt wish that I had known about this connection earlier in my life, so many years earlier.1

Wish and advice for others

While it’s no use to wonder about the what-ifs that my mind creates, I hope some of the things I wish I knew at a younger age can be helpful information to somebody else. Elements such as being assertive in your relationships, being knowledgeable about sexual health, and being assertive with the medical community are very important for everybody.

We need to ensure that everybody is educated and feels confident regarding their sexual health.

Do you have things that you wish your younger self knew? Share them below.

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