HIV: A New Horizon

I remember reflecting on the real and significant possibility of living with HIV. As I walked into the clinic and heard the door shut behind me I felt an uneasy calm, but also unwittingly, a fearful expectation of a positive result. Regardless of how I felt a positive result would be life changing; on a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual level. I asked myself what if it turns out I have this virus? A question that continued to play out in my mind, through the intial testing process.

Receiving a positive HIV result

The health care worker was very nice as she sat me down and explained the HIV testing process; from receiving my initial result, confirming a possible positive result, and the initial steps of moving forward if I was HIV positive. She was speaking with me as we waited for the result, and having glanced down at the test, asked me

"what do you know about HIV treatment? "

I looked straight ahead and knew immediately I had tested positive. I responded in telling her that with medication, HIV is a treatable condition. She then proceeded to tell me that the result was indeed positive; and it was later confirmed I had HIV. Many emotions coursed through me, in coming to terms with my diagnosis. My mind processed this life changing event in a methodical sequence of thoughts and reflection that led to critically important conclusions.

Exploring treatment options

I wasn't going to develop AIDS, if I kept to my treatment regimen, led a healthy lifestyle, followed up with my doctor, and in having my blood work done regularly, I would always know my CD4 count and viral load. Medication for HIV had made significant strides not only in regards to the effect and impact on the health, and life expectancy of those with HIV, but also in the occurrence and severity of possible side effects and damage, due to their usage. That being said, there was still a level of anxiety in taking this medication daily; but I embraced this opportunity for the life giving blessing it was.

Aging with HIV

I was aware of aging with HIV and the circumstances surrounding the issue. I understood that as I got older I would be at a significantly higher risk for experiencing other medical conditions, that come with age; much earlier in my life. Thereby, I knew that in taking care of myself I could possibly "minimize" my risk, so as to also better treat them if and when they would occur.

I have now been on HIV treatment for almost 15 years, and I do deal with some long-term effects due to the medication; and currently dealing with other medical issues, that have developed since my diagnosis. This comes as no surprise and I have come to accept this reality; which was a part of my acceptance of my diagnosis.

Guilt and stigma

Therefore, at times I feel significantly older than I really am; due to the"premature" changes to my health. Yet, the biggest elephant in my room at the time of receiving my positive test result was guilt; like so many others.

Guilt is a monster from within that will devour a person, if it is allowed to. I am bisexual, and I was dating an attractive, fun, and outgoing guy prior to my HIV diagnosis. You can say this hunk was too outgoing, as he was involved in sexual relations with other individuals; while we were still together. Obviously this ended things.

It was at this point that I became significantly concerned for my health, in light of HIV infection. We had used protection inconsistently at the beginning of our relationship; and shortly after we never did. I definitely should have been more diligent in making sure he always used a condom, but intimacy is a two-way street, and if he wasn't using protection with me, nor was he with others. (a safe assumption) simply put I should have known better; but it has been water under the bridge for a long time.

Looking ahead

Yes, I did feel guilt and regret. Yet, does having dated this individual who infected me with HIV ( as I had tested negative prior to our meeting ) my being bisexual and HIV positive, have any bearing on my human dignity and self-worth? No. Like millions of wonderful people, I too have a chronic condition I live with; I am HIV positive.

How often do we living with HIV, a chronic condition, in light of the stigma, coping, guilt, acceptance, and medical-related issues associated with it, show compassion for ourselves? And in what ways?

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