In December of 2008 I had the chance to talk with Jay (Not his real name) about his recent diagnosis with HIV. His transparency and honesty was amazing! Many readers emailed me with their stories and thoughts. Clearly, Jay's story hit home with many of us. It still does eight months later.
I ran into Jay and we got to talking. He and I both enjoy a fun evening out and about, yet we always seem to get in deep conversations whenever we see one another. I think we both see the importance of sharing his continued growth.
A lot can be learned from Jay's story. We see what we can do to prevent HIV. We see that we can manage life with the disease. For many of us, Jay represents the guy next door; the friend who just found out, or maybe our own life.
As I've said in former articles HIV can happen to anyone of us! We can't say that we don't know about the risk anymore. The Chicago Public Health Department's report, released in July, suggests the HIV infection rate among gay men in Chicago is nearly 20%. TWENTY PERCENT!? That's almost 1 in 5 men in Chicago are HIV positive. Jay has courageously shown us that it's time to take charge of our lives; our sex, and ultimately our hearts!
Are there any new symptoms? Any new side effects to your medication? The only new symptoms that I've had have been Molluscs, (Molluscum Contagiousum) a small rash that isn't HIV related but the doctors say that is very common with HIV positive patients. I am still taking medication for a shingles outbreak in my ear that I had about a year ago but there are no further problems with that. There have been no new side effects to my meds.
Have more people found out about you or are you keeping it to a certain few? Yes more people have found out but that's because I am pretty open about it! Of course I am not screaming it from the rooftops but with all sexual partners I am completely honest and more friends know just because I am so open about it. Like I said before, it helps me heal as a person and if I can help anyone with my story then there is no need to be ashamed of it!
Have you experienced any prejudice with potential partners? So far I haven't experienced any prejudice with potential partners, but that is always subject to change. I have found most gay men are pretty well educated on the topic and I have also found that many that aren't positive have been with positive men.
Have your medical bills changed with the resent state budget cuts? My medical bills have not changed with state budget cuts...fortunately!
The average monthly cost in medications for HIV is about $2,100 (Source: www.nhcares.org/HseDivIIIHIVASOs3-23-09.htm) The state of Illinois does provide great assistance for those suffering with HIV. This however is always in somewhat of a limbo when it comes to budget cuts. Groups like Test Positive Aware Network stress the importance of education with periodicals like the 13th Annual HIV Drug Guide; teaching HIV patients everything they need to know about their options. One would agree, without the state's help people like Jay would have to deal with more than their health worries on a daily basis.
Have you gotten a routine day to day lifestyle with your HIV? It is imperative that myself as well as all HIV patients take every dose of medicine! If not, you can build immunities to certain medicines then in turn limiting your choices of meds that will best suite you and your medical situation.
With groups like IML turning away groups that promote bareback sex, have you noticed the community being safer? Bareback Sex is definitely still there. It seems to be a little more underground and it will always take place.
Has your life's mission changed because of your HIV status? My mission for life is still growing; and definitely has been altered because of this disease. Complications of course have risen to get to where I want to be; whether it's emotional, physical or financial, I have a lot more on my plate due to this life altering disease.
Eight months later, what would you say to the newly infected HIV+ person? There are two things that I would say to someone that is recently infected. It's going to be okay and educated yourself on the disease and your specific situation to help guide yourself to the best way possible of battling it. I would also suggest some professional psychiatric help; preferably someone that specializes in the gay community and is well versed with this disease.
I really have to agree with Jay here! HIV or not, getting counseling is a smart road to travel! A psychologist or psychiatrist knows the overall human condition and how the mind/body work. Whether you're facing decisions or dilemmas of any size, they can really help make sense of it all.
I myself have benefited from great counseling! Good times or bad I still make a monthly appointment. Places like the Center on Halsted or Howard Brown Health Center provide such counseling.
You can also get tested for HIV at both! Not too long ago ChicagoPride.com's Stephen K. Waite shared his experience in getting tested at the Center on Halsted. Check out his informative article: Tested Interest!
Words cannot express how much I appreciate Jay's story! You can bet that I will continue to follow it!