With an overwhelming response to the first installment of this series, I am happy to see that many are walking away from this with the same determination to help others; adjust their own lifestyles; and see a shift of responsibility in the community! A number of you have made contact with the various community Organizations that offer help and services for those impacted by HIV.
This next installment covers a time in Jay's (Not his real name) life where he was faced with the terrible news that he was HIV+. Notice the courage, determination, and honesty in Jay's responses.
Did symptoms or fear of infection drive you to get tested?
Yes symptoms of infection drove me straight to the Doctors office. There was one specific sexual encounter I had two weeks prior to coming down with a severe cold. I new something was up and even told myself the night I left his place that if I get sick in the next two weeks that I have probably been infected. I was sick for about five days with horrible pains and fevers. I got to the doctors office and told them exactly what had happened.
What method was used to test you?
They drew blood and sent it off to get a viral load test done, even though that is not "approved" for HIV testing, although it is used for HIV patients to see how much viral infection is in per milliliter of blood. The blood work took 12 business days to get back and I continued to be sick with the symptoms. I developed a horrible rash on my hands and bottom of my feet. I did have a glimmer of hope that it wasn't HIV because my doctor said the rash looked like syphilis, but that came back negative.
Who told you you were infected?
When the results finally came back, my doctor was the one that came in and told me. I was in a complete daze.
What were the first words to come out of your mouth?
I think my first words were "okay, what do we do," or "okay, I thought so."
What were your thoughts?
My thoughts were of complete devastation and humiliation for the simple fact that, I am an educated man and knew better than to have unprotected sex. But recall, at that time in my life I wasn't in a good spot, I didn't love myself enough to care and THAT came back to bight me in the ass.
Who did you tell first?
I believe the first person I told was my roommate at the time.
Were you angry?
When it comes to being "angry," I was; more at myself than anything. The first two weeks after being told; I was in denial, then came complete depression and unstoppable control of emotion. The haze finally cleared after about a month and I continued with life. But from the very beginning I remember telling myself that I am not going to let this get me down and that I was going to do everything to educated myself on this disease and figure out the best way of fighting it.
I think we can all take Jay's example and educate ourselves on HIV. You realize that this impacts us all; straight, gay, or bisexual. Whether you are sexually active or not is isn't the issue. Education impacts our daily ability to make healthy decisions. This goes much further than the simple act of using a condom. It has to become part of our life's course so when you are in a moment that requires you to make a choice; you'll not falter. Jay said in the first installment of this series that he "dismissed that fact when in the act.". He will tell you today that, that is where he went wrong.
Remember, there are people and Organizations that are there for you 24/7. Don't be afraid to ask for help! I want to continue the challenge to everyone to play safe; get tested; and make healthy choices!