What I Want You to Know About Living With HIV

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Life pinch HIV has changed a batch since nan 1980s and ‘90s. What was erstwhile a decease condemnation has go a treatable condition. Today, group pinch HIV tin look guardant to nan future.

Still, nan stigma surrounding HIV hasn’t disappeared. Misconceptions astir really nan microorganism spreads and who is astatine consequence still abound.

Four group pinch HIV stock what they want you to cognize astir nan realities of surviving pinch nan virus.

I've been HIV-positive for 34 years. It seems weird to talk astir being an older personification pinch HIV because I wasn't expected to unrecorded to 30. And now I'm 60.

I was infected successful 1987, but I didn't find retired officially until I was tested successful 1989. There was a rumor going astir that Asian group didn't get HIV, truthful I didn't deliberation I was going to beryllium positive.

I retrieve that nan expert blurted out, “You're HIV positive.”

I asked, "Am I going to die?" And she said, "Most apt you won't unrecorded to spot 30." There was nary curen astatine nan time. There was nothing. It was a wholly different time.

I was nan first 1 successful my small group of friends to trial positive. It was challenging. My friends and I utilized to spell retired for meals. I noticed that if I took thing disconnected a plate, cipher ate aft me. If I smoked a cigarette, cipher smoked aft me. If you were gay, group didn't want you to beryllium astir their children. Not because you were going to do thing to them, but because they were acrophobic their kids mightiness get HIV.

Things person changed a lot. For nan astir part, group thin to beryllium overmuch much delicate and overmuch much kind. There are a batch of things we sewage right. The treatment, entree to health care, that benignant of stuff. But there's a batch of worldly we're still moving on, for illustration issues related to gender and race.

And location are still a batch of misconceptions. Some group deliberation HIV is done. Or they deliberation HIV is simply a civilized issue. It's not. People person had sex since nan opening of time, and our young group should beryllium knowledgeable and fixed nan devices they request to protect themselves.

I deliberation 1 of nan champion things group tin do for personification pinch HIV is to listen. Be empathetic, but don't effort to rescue them. We're not a project. And if you can't listen, constitute a check. Support nan organizations that thief group pinch HIV.

I was diagnosed successful June 2015. It was shocking. There was a infinitesimal erstwhile I stopped breathing.

Because I americium a nationalist wellness professional, I was doing a batch of wellness acquisition and counseling for different Black men pinch HIV. I thought of their stories, their courage, and nan measurement they’ve gotten done their diagnosis. Though I was scared, I felt blessed by each nan people’s shoulders that I was capable to guidelines on.

The support that poured retired from my friends was amazing, but it hasn’t ever been an easy journey. I already person truthful galore things connected my back. I’m young, I’m Black, I’m gay, and I person HIV. And nan world is filled pinch truthful overmuch stigma.

In nan Black community, HIV is moreover much stigmatized, which is proliferated by nan values of nan Black church. Sex and sexuality are demonized. When you’re gay, your sexuality is moreover much demonized.

People deliberation of this arsenic a cheery man’s disease, but HIV affects everybody. Everybody successful nan world tin statement HIV. We’re each astatine risk, truthful we should beryllium talking astir it.

Another misconception is that group pinch HIV are promiscuous. We’re seen arsenic intersexual deviants. That’s a explanation that a batch of america person to transportation and internalize. But that is often not our lived experience.

I deliberation a batch of group judge that you tin show erstwhile personification has HIV, but we nary longer unrecorded successful a clip erstwhile group pinch HIV are dying. Because of advances successful biomedical research, group for illustration maine are surviving longer. There are group successful their 50s, 60s, and 70s who are living pinch HIV.

Then location are nan narration issues. People pinch HIV whitethorn beryllium successful nan headspace of, “No one’s going to emotion me,” or, “I’m going to person to day group pinch HIV to find love.” I’m undetectable, which intends my viral load is low, which intends I cannot walk HIV connected to you.

Treatment works. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, aliases PrEP, nan medicine group return to forestall HIV, works. I’ve dated group connected PrEP and I’ve had activity pinch group connected PrEP. They’ve maintained their HIV-negative status.

The activity I do pinch my organization, He is Valuable Inc., grew retired of my HIV diagnosis. Our ngo is to identify, reinforce, and observe nan worth of queer Black men done anti-stigma campaigns and different programs.

I want group to cognize that HIV is simply a societal justness rumor and a quality authorities issue. If we each activity together, we tin really destruct this thing. All of america person a domiciled successful ending this.

In 2016, I had been getting sick a lot. I had this microorganism that wouldn't spell away. I was surfing, and I thought possibly I'd gotten a parasite from nan water. Over a 6-week period, I had changeless malaise. My assemblage was aching. I went to respective doctors and they told me, "It's viral. Take ibuprofen and you'll consciousness better."

But I didn't get better. I started moving fevers and having night sweats. I thought, "Something is wrong."

Finally, I had a blood trial and nan expert told me, "You tested affirmative for nan HIV antibody." I said, "What? How is that possible?" HIV wasn't moreover adjacent to what I thought was incorrect pinch me.

What I didn't cognize was that I really had AIDS. I went to nan ER and tested affirmative for pneumonia.

When I was first diagnosed, I retrieve emotion for illustration I was this soiled person. It's a explanation that was put connected me. There was this presumption that it was my fault. I evidently did thing incorrect to get HIV, and I should person known better. People assumed that I must person been having activity pinch tons of group to get HIV, without moreover proceeding my story. But successful reality, I was successful a committed narration pinch a man I loved.

One point I've learned done my defense activity complete nan years is that women chiefly get HIV from men who are bisexual aliases who stock needles while utilizing drugs. I'd gotten it from an ex-boyfriend who had a history of supplier use. I started my YouTube transmission and Instagram page to correct these and galore of nan different misconceptions that are retired there.

I didn't cognize thing astir HIV erstwhile I was diagnosed. I assumed my life was over. But my expert told maine that it's very manageable. And it has been. The medicine fundamentally stops nan microorganism from replicating. About 2 months aft I went connected treatment, my viral load dropped from 507,000 particles successful a driblet of humor to 35 particles. My pneumonia cleared up, and I started surfing again.

People deliberation having HIV intends I americium afloat of nan virus, for illustration a flashing reddish ray -- nan HIV lady! But if you tested maine for it today, you wouldn’t find it. I've been undetectable for 5 years. My immune system is successful nan aforesaid style arsenic it was earlier I had HIV. Truly I don't consciousness immoderate different than I did before.

I tested affirmative successful 2009. At nan clip I was doing unpaid activity for nan Gay and Lesbian Center successful San Francisco, and I had been progressive successful HIV prevention. We had accelerated HIV tests available, truthful I conscionable grabbed 1 and I did it connected myself. When it was ready, my co-worker told me, “You cognize what those 2 lines mean.” And I was like, “Yes. I'm HIV-positive, and I cognize what I request to do. Don’t worry. I’m going to get done this.”

I'm connected medication now. And arsenic agelong arsenic I return it daily, I'm healthy.

The hardest portion for maine of surviving pinch HIV has been dating. I've had group who, erstwhile I told them I was HIV-positive, rejected maine aliases said, "I don’t want to bent retired pinch you. I’m not comfortable making love personification who is HIV-positive." That was difficult to hear. There is truthful overmuch much astir Angel than conscionable that 1 thing.

I cognize that nan microorganism is dormant because nan medicine I return suppresses it. I don't create capable microorganism to beryllium capable to walk it to personification else. Still, I person made it a regular that if I meet someone, earlier we moreover spell connected a coffee date, I show them, "I’m HIV affirmative and I’m undetectable. You tin opportunity nary now, aliases you tin opportunity yes." Nowadays, I don’t get arsenic galore group who say, "I'm going to pass." But they’re still retired there.

We person travel very far, but we still person a agelong measurement to go. Even today, there’s a batch of fearfulness astir HIV. Can group dice from it? Yes. But group tin dice from diabetes and different diseases, too. If we return attraction of ourselves, we’ll beryllium fine.

If I weren't HIV-positive, I don’t deliberation I would beryllium present astatine nan San Francisco AIDS Foundation, moving pinch our 50-plus members and being capable to understand them. It has opened my eyes and helped maine understand nan clients I’m moving with. I've reached a constituent successful my life wherever I conscionable judge my HIV and emotion myself. It's portion of who I am.

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