My name is Josh and I was diagnosed HIV + on June 5, 2012. At this moment I had already been through a very trying time of my life. I had survived death twice with separate issues regarding my leg, including necrotizing fasciitis and suffering from septic shock after a surgery where my kidneys began to shut down. After my second surgery I was hospitalized over 30 times in a two-year period due to reoccurring cellulitis in my left leg. For someone as young as I was, I shouldn’t have been having all of these issues. I found myself in the hospital setting almost every month being poked and prodded like cattle.
In January of 2012 I found out that my girlfriend of almost two years from Tijuana, Mexico was cheating on me again after I had given her a chance to change. I started to really stress about things but knew deep down inside it was not going to work out. I thought she was the “one” from the magic fairy tales that we all hear so much about as kids however this was not the case. We were attempting to have a kid together because we thought this would “solve” the situation. After I found out she had cheated the second time with a cousin of a non blood uncle, it really hurt me deep inside. I had grown so close with her family over the years and even though I knew it was the right thing to do to break up, I didn’t want to accept mentally or emotionally what was happening.
We broke up shortly after and I began to search for the closure I was looking for in that part of my life. I began to party, going out with friends to have a good time, and in the end got more than I bargained for. I was constantly having sexual relations with females I had barely just met that night or known for a very short period of time. Sometimes when I would have sex with these girls I would meet, protection would not be a major priority. I was also going down to the legally ran brothels in Tijuana not because I wanted to find love or a relationship, but because of how my last relationship had ended I started to equate caring with sex. I always used protection while down there however it just goes to show how my life was spiraling out of control due to the simple fact that I couldn’t get over a relationship.
I had met my ex while doing missionary work in Tijuana and also while I found my passion for language. The fact that I knew her for over 7 years along with her family did not help the situation. I was broken inside and in my mind was trying to repair the situation and move forward.
In May of 2012 I started to get symptoms of pink eye which for myself was normal as I work in bail bonds and am constantly entering in/out of the jails. I wet to an appointment with my primary care provider and while I was there, also requested an HIV test. I had tested negative in November of 2011 without knowing because the test was ordered during one of my hospital stays. I thought to myself it had been awhile since I had been checked and due to my ex cheating (not knowing if she had used protection) as well as the one night stands I had after we broke up on top of recently having received a tattoo, I decided to get tested as a “just in case” type measure. Everything was normal and they took my blood, said they would call me in a couple of days with the results, and I left. I never received a call back which I found odd however figured they had simply forgotten.
On June 5th I had an appointment set up with my infectious disease doctor to follow-up with the issues regarding my leg. Since the two clinics are connected under the same network, they are allowed to share information with each other, and my P.C. had called my ID to inform him of my results and pass along the information. We went over the issues with my leg and how I was progressing which is when he told me he knew I took an HIV test with my primary care doc the week prior and didn’t I find it odd that he didn’t call me back. I then thanked him saying I had forgotten all about it and would call my doctor after I got out of the appointment to find out the results as I figured they had forgotten to contact me. That is when he told me that he had the results and they didn’t turn out so good. I thought to myself well how did they not turn out good ? Could they not read the blood and I would need to go for another test or what exactly was the issue? He then said “Josh, I am sorry but you came out HIV +”.
I sat there in disbelief, stared at the wall for a couple of minutes trying to escape the news I was receiving, and when it finally hit me what he was telling me, I broke down into a river of tears. He explained to me about treatment and how medically advanced we are now compared to the 80′s, assuring me that treatment would allow me to live a long and healthy life. Everything he said went in one ear and out of the other. He then started to ask me about my relationships within the past 6 months and how to protect others from myself and the virus that was now living within my body. I then went to get the confirmatory western blot test and I was in complete shock. The nurse asked me why I was crying so much and when I told her I came out positive she just stated how sorry she was. I had to sit down for 15 minutes after and drink some orange juice so I wouldn’t get up and collapse.
I began to drive to work as I was scheduled at 2 pm. I was in complete shock of what had happened. I wanted to crash the car the whole way and say goodbye to this world but luckily something inside me told me not to do it. It was the hardest day of my life having to work through being newly diagnosed with HIV however from the start I began to tell my coworkers and try to get some sort of support. Everyone was very understanding, shocked as well, but stuck by me. I wanted to keep working to keep me distracted, keep my mind off things, and not ponder what my new life might be like.
I was contemplating not telling my parents as I thought it would hurt them more than help the situation however after seeing my mom’s face, someone who raised me and loved me since birth, obviously knowing that something was wrong, I couldn’t hold back. I told my mom first and we sat and cried for hours. The first thing she asked me is if I was gay, because in their minds, that was the only group that they had known to be contracting it. Later that night I told my dad before he left to go to work where we also embraced. They both assured me that no matter what, they would be there to support me. I had much education about it but never thought it would happen to me. Together we started to educate ourselves even more until we knew absolutely everything about this new “member” of the family so to say.
I got the confirmatory test results a couple of days later via my primary care doctor on the phone. My lymph nodes in my neck had began to swell and hurt in such a way that I had never felt that kind of pain before. During this time I was still holding out hope it was a false positive, it was all I had to cling onto. This was not the case my doctor informed me and said that my western blot also showed positive. I cried so much during the first week that I literally had no more water in my body to cry anymore. I didn’t know any of the girls that I had been with except my ex therefore I made the hardest call of my life. We had been separated for over 4 months or so now so she was very surprised when I called thinking I was wanting to amend the relationship. When I finally was able to get out the reason that I was calling “Amairany, I am HIV positive” I said in Spanish, she let out a blood curdling scream that I had nightmares about for the following months. She said she was going to get tested which gave me some sigh of relief, I knew she had never been tested. Her mom called me up the next day and was so pissed that I have never heard someone cuss so fast in Spanish before in my life. I had been faithful in the relationship but in their eyes I had cheated and now brought home HIV to one of their family members. I was not sure who I had contracted it from, nor when, therefore I was calling out of love because it was the right thing to do. That was the last I heard from her and never heard back since. I have since found out that she is negative however do not know if I truly believe it for the simple fact she comes from a very traditional family and out of pride/shame I know she wouldn’t tell anyone. I started to get involved in educating myself more, watching fellow activists on YouTube and how they got through it, and within a week of being diagnosed I started on HIV ARV treatment after finding out I had a 28,000 VL and 350 CD4. I had to make the decision of how to proceed with my life and I decided I would not let this virus destroy me. I kept a positive and optimistic attitude which I still carry to this day. Seeing other activists making a difference and helping others really wanted to make me get more involved in sharing my story which I have.
Everyone knows about my status and I try to show my face and share my story wherever I go so people know that this disease truly does not discriminate. We are all human, we all make mistakes, and there is no reason ANYONE deserves this virus. I just happened to have an unlucky hand at life in one sense however this journey has grown me so much mentally, emotionally, and spiritually that I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am currently undetectable with a great cd4 count and wanting to make a difference in this world when it comes to HIV/AIDS. There is so much stigma, so much hate, so much discrimination, and the numbers continue to stay constant here in the US. I continually promote the use of protection and education to ensure that HIV stops with me.
This is my story, I am Joshua Middleton, and I am HIV +. I have a blog that I regularly update at http://www.pozitivehope.com and try to share videos every once in a while on YouTube to give hope to others. My goal is to see a HIV/AIDS free generation however we might be far away from that day, until then I want to do my part in putting a large dent in this epidemic.