Today I write this with a heavy heart.
When I was diagnosed HIV Positive in March of 2013 I very quickly learned how little services there are available to HIV Positive women. The nice woman at Planned Parenthood had very little information for me but she did hand me a short list of organizations in San Diego that provide services to HIV Positive people. There was only one place on that list that catered to women, that place was Christie’s Place. I’ll never forget that day as long as I live. It was a Saturday and unfortunately all of the organizations were closed for the weekend. I called every phone number on that list and I left a message on every voicemail praying for a call back. I was so very, very scared. You see, I had made the terrible mistake of googling HIV and the first thing that popped up was a photo of David Kirby. He was lying in a hospital bed, his body nothing but a skeleton. He was taking his last breaths. I’ve never been so scared in my life. I just knew I was going to die. It was the longest most horrible weekend of my entire life.
First thing Monday morning the calls came pouring in. The organizations were finally returning my calls. One after another they told me that they only cater to the LGBT community and that there was nothing they could do for me. I think the third call that came in was from Christie’s Place. It was the sweet voice of a woman named Jay telling me that she would help me. She would help me figure it all out and everything was going to be just fine. She explained to me that she was a Peer Navigator and although at the time I had no idea what that title meant I very quickly made an appointment to meet with her, I had so many questions. That same day I went to meet with Jay. I was an emotional wreck. I remember pulling up to the address she had given me and thinking that it looked like a house. That was oddly comforting, I guess I expected a building or someplace much more clinical looking. Anyways, I went inside and told the lady at the front desk I was there to meet with Jay and then I took a seat in the lobby. Actually, it was more like a living room, complete with couches and carpet and there were even pictures of people with their families on the wall. Jay walked around the corner and introduced herself then she asked if she could give me a hug. I’m not typically the hug a stranger type of person but it was the best hug I had ever had in my life. I remember thinking this woman knows I have HIV and she still wants to hug me? I needed that hug more than I have ever needed a hug. I think in some ways that hug may have saved my life.
That day I met with Jay and Heather (both Peer Navigators) and together they explained to me what having HIV meant and that I was going to live! I wasn’t going to die after all! They both told me that they too were HIV Positive and they were doing just fine. They explained to me that I would just need to take medication and I too could live a healthy, fulfilling life. I remember looking at them and thinking they both looked so “normal” nothing at all like the man in the photograph. Jay went on to help me figure out the healthcare part of things. She even helped me find a doctor, schedule my first appointment and went to my first doctor’s appointment with me! From that moment on they were both, just, always there for me. Anytime I had a question or needed a hug I could call Jay or Heather and they would just… be there. That is when I finally figured out what a Peer Navigator truly was and how amazing and instrumental they are to a person newly diagnosed HIV Positive.
I grew very familiar with Christie’s Place. I went there to get help with my health insurance and ADAP enrollment. For a while I went there for therapy and when I was ready I started attending the Tuesday night support group. I was so scared and nervous to go to that support group alone I asked Jay to come with me and she did! She sat right next to me and I felt so relieved and thankful to have her there. I still go to the Tuesday night support group, every Tuesday actually. Christie’s Place became my second family. It was a place that I felt safe and I felt like I belonged there. When you are newly diagnosed it is very hard to feel like you belong somewhere, it is also very important to feel like you belong somewhere.
It wasn’t long after my diagnosis that I knew I wanted to do something to help people with HIV. I developed a passion in my soul to help people. I didn’t know how I was going to do it but I knew that I was going to do something, anything I could to help. I started my website, wearehiv.org and that fulfilled some of my desire. I even helped a few people get into care and helped others to find places that provide HIV testing. I remember the first time I helped a woman all the way across the country get linked to an organization much like Christie’s Place. When that woman emailed me to let me know that she had been to the doctor and got her meds I felt a feeling I didn’t even know I could feel. Knowing that YOU helped someone save their life is monumental. Still I wanted to do more…
Four months ago Heather sent me an email and told me there was a Peer Navigator position available at Christie’s Place. I knew at that very moment I wanted that job and I would do any and everything in my power to get it! Working for a nonprofit organization does not pay much monetarily but it is so very rewarding! I often say helping people is better than any paycheck you could ever receive. After a lengthy interview process I got the job! I was over the moon with excitement. I would finally get to comfort other people at quite possibly the worst time of their lives and I couldn’t have been happier. Plus, I would get to give out hugs to people that really needed hugs, and to me that was amazing! I’ve been here at Christie’s Place for three months now and I have loved every second of it. I have met amazing, inspiring women that I now could not imagine my life without. I have learned so much about HIV and the people living with HIV. I have been deeply touched in a way that I had never expected. The passion in my soul had finally been met. Until, today…
Today, I and another Peer Navigator were informed that a large chunk of the funding for Christie’s Place was lost and we will have to go part-time starting March 15th and very possibly lose our positions altogether because they can no longer afford to pay us. That is why I am writing this today. Christie’s Place is an amazing resource for women living with HIV. If they do not have the funds needed for the work they do then ultimately it will be the women that need the resources Christie’s Place provides the most, that will lose out. So I am asking for your help. If you can help please do so! Being a woman living with HIV is hard and without all of the services Christie’s Place offers it will be so much harder. I honestly cannot imagine where I would be today without Christie’s Place and Jay’s amazing hugs!
I was diagnosed with HIV in 1997. I was in a 10 year relationship that ended when I was 27 years old. Three months after the break up I found out that I had contracted HIV. I didn’t understand how I could have contracted the virus since I was in a long term relationship. I was devastated, scared and thought I was going to leave my 6 year old daughter sooner than I expected. I was depressed for months and soon realized that I can’t let HIV beat me and that I had to beat HIV. I moved on with my life and was married two years later to a man who was negative. I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who is now 13 years old and was born negative due to the ARV’s I was taking. I never hid my HIV status from family and friends and never made it a secret. I have never been ashamed of the woman I am, but I lived a pretty normal life living with HIV. My daughter who was 6 years old when i was diagnosed is now 23 and she has known that her mother has had HIV since she was 8 years old. I just recently disclosed my status to my 13 year old daughter five months ago and that’s when I decided to let the world know that HIV still exists. I started forming a nonprofit organization over a year ago called Poz Haven Foundation to help women and children in Nigeria who have contracted HIV/AIDS I want to give love, hope and care to them, who would otherwise be stigmatized and pushed to the side because of their status. Poz Haven Foundation is a work in progress, but I’m almost there. My love and my heart is very open to anyone who needs me. I have recently posted two videos on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Google, and twitter letting the world know that I am HIV positive. I want so bad to be a voice for those who are afraid and I will keep posting videos until I can reach everyone that will listen. If one person can be helped by listening to one of my videos then I have done my job. Having HIV has helped me to see the world so much differently. It has made me strong and taught me to not give up hope. If I could shout to the world that I am HIV Positive then that’s what I would do. Soon I will be speaking to the youth about awareness. Advocacy is where I’m headed with my goals. We all need to be a voice. HIV needs to be heard. It still exists and I am HIV. I want to say thank you to wearehiv.org for letting all positive individuals express who they are in a great way. You are awesome!
In late October of 2003 I had been sick for a while. I finally went to the health department and was first tested for std’s, the test came back positive for syphilis. I was then asked if I wanted to get tested for HIV, it took a while for the test to come back. Later I found out they tested it twice so it took a month and a half for it to come back. Then I got that call for me to come in my HIV test had came back positive thank god syphilis is curable. Don’t we wish HIV was too. It’s been almost 12 years for me now, I’ve been on meds since a few months after my diagnoses. Thank god they are working. I only date positive men after facing rejection, stigma and ignorance.
I now have a group on Facebook called Positive Love, my favorite peer is Maria hiv Mejia to help educate. I’m stubborn, strong willed, a rebel and outspoken. I am now working on getting the right people in my life, the ones that know the true meaning of loyalty that love me for me without strings; we change the world the free thinkers the. By the way anyone is welcome to join the group .
My beautiful, amazing, loving, extremely talented friend wrote this letter to me today and I wanted to share it with all of you. I am so very lucky to have such amazingly supportive people in my life! I absolutely love her and her little family with my whole heart! Thank you Annie and Mike for always being there for me. I truly could not imagine my life without you guys!
Originally posted on Just Me! (and Him) (and Them):
“I went to the doctor to refill my birth control and…” We were in San Diego visiting family and of course you, our dear friend. I didn’t know what to think when you said you needed to talk to us privately, but I was pretty sure that you were going to tell us you were pregnant. Mike and I exchanged a glance and I knew he was thinking the same thing. I let out a mental sigh. This was not a great situation for you to be in. Sure, you could raise a baby on your own, but it would be so hard! You have no family in San Diego… Before my mind wandered too far, I noticed your eyes. That look in your eyes. Regardless of your situation, a baby wouldn’t make you look like this. Such nervousness. Sadness. A little fear? What could possibly be this hard to tell us? I tuned back in…
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Sometimes, I don’t know what to say to you. Other times, I fume and rant and rage with cussing and foot stomping. You anger me. You took my peace. I am a peaceful woman and now, I don’t feel peaceful. Look at me, on the outside I am beautiful and on the inside, you reign. You are the queen living inside me and taking from my life. Sure, I can cover it all up with pretty words and say, I am the same Dona that I used to be… but, am I? Am I the same woman that you met all those years ago? I have changed in many ways, some… I will say, I am thankful for the change and others… yeah, I cannot be thankful for the others. You made me more aware of myself. Thoughtful of who I allow in my life and what I put inside my body, because if I damage my body, you will be right there with a quickness and devour my strength. So, yes… I love how I am aware of what is happening around and within me. I hate the fatigue. I hate the fear. I hate having you in my life. When it all boils down to reality, I feel broken. I am incomplete and afraid of intimacy. Where I once was passionate and an awesome lover, I am afraid to be involved emotionally and physically with another. I have tried and I end up crying. Even though I know I am worthy of love, having you hiding in my body, hangs as a cloud above my head and I don’t know how I can be with another person… and just be me. No matter how much I am “just me”, I am not “just me”. I am me and you. We are a team. An unwanted team… So, I will remain broken. I recently read about a Goddess from India, her name is Goddess Akhilandeshvari. Her name means “never not broken”. She is the Goddess of turmoil, sadness, life changes… The Always Broken, Goddess. She rides a Crocodile, which is essentially her fear, her turmoil. She travels upon the back of her great danger and her body is broken and radiates light and change. She surrenders to change. You, HIV are my change. You are my fear. You are my Crocodile and I will ride the hell out of you and surrender to my change of life. I am always broken. Always. With my broken-ness, I will inspire and radiate light and life and continue to flow with the changes. You, despite your best effort, will not control me. I will control you. So, HIV… One day, you will leave my body, we will separate. My soul will travel to the light and you will fall to the grave. Despite the changes you have caused in my life, I win. I win with graciousness and beauty because I will die on my terms and become one with the light. Your connection to me is temporary and I belong to the eternal. I am saddling up my Crocodile and riding to the sunset and under the moon light… you cannot stop me…
Sincerely, Dona L. Lackey
My name is Joee Pineda and I was born in Honduras, Central America. I currently reside in Clermont, FL. I was diagnosed at age 19 in 1990. At first I had no clue whatsoever what HIV/AIDS was, I simply thought I had a cold virus that would go away. As I began to learn more about HIV/AIDS, I became severely depressed, suicidal and would not leave my house. I felt like I had a sign on my forehead that stated “I have AIDS,” and thought people would know by just looking at me.
As time passed, I educated myself about HIV/AIDS and now I try to help others through peer mentoring. I am a non-medical case manager in the Central Florida area and I continue to educate and help others understand how to live with HIV/AIDS.
What three adjectives best describe you?
Strong, educated and the desire to help others
What is your greatest achievement?
Becoming a case manager
What is your greatest regret?
Not finishing school in order to get my Masters degree
What keeps you up at night?
Personal issues, love life (I have none)
If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
Not allowing people to put me down and stigmatize me
What is the best advice you ever received?
HIV does not define me. I am still me.
What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
Maria Mejia, she inspires me to be better.
What drives you to do what you do?
The desire to help others and end stigma
What is your motto?
It gets better.
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
A tiger, because I can be tamed but if you mess with me I will tear you up
Bowers outreach educates, raises awareness, fights stigma, and perhaps most importantly, invokes compassion, hope, and affirmative change on our planet.
Infected in 1983 from a one-time decision to share a needle, Bob is one of the first 14,000 Americans infected with HIV. He has lived throughout the whole history of the AIDS pandemic, experienced many ups and downs in his health, and lost so many friends you wonder how his heart can bear it.
He is a powerful and motivating public speaker that reaches out to a large array of diverse audiences. He is a tireless and passionate advocate helping to shape HIV/AIDS policy. He is also active in fund-raising events, camps for youth affected or infected by HIV, guest-speaking engagements, and youth prevention education in schools, colleges, jails and community organizations. He has been interviewed and featured through Film, Television, Radio, Magazine and Newspapers. The feature length AIDS documentary, “The Fire Within”, follows his life during 1999 and is a moving story of courage, passion for life and the healing use of choice.
He is far from the ‘stereotypical’ image of a person with AIDS, thus having a profound and lasting impact on his audiences. He is generously outspoken about his life struggles and personal choices prior to the time of his infection. Through his public speaking, he shares how HIV disease has helped him to make better choices and to appreciate the very simple beauty of day-to-day life.
To broaden his message of survival, youth prevention through education, hope and compassion, he founded HIVictorious, Inc. ® in 2005. In 2014, Bob’s outreach and message continues under, One Tough Pirate Productions, Inc., based in San Francisco, California. As an HIV positive speaker, Bob knows first-hand the importance of putting a face to the disease in hopes of reducing AIDS stigma and more.
In 2012, Bob had the honor of being a POZ Army General (POZ Magazine) in the fight to cure HIV. Throughout these many years, his voice, passion, and commitment continues! You can view One Tough Pirate on the May 2006 cover of POZ Magazine He was also featured on the cover of Positively Aware.
He feels his greatest accomplishment is survival in general. “I’m out there way beyond my time,” he says. And it is with the fiercely honest grit of his courageous heart and soul that Bob pierces through the slightest bit of complacency or prejudice any of his audience members may hold. “Compassion is our cure,” he commands. And with this pirate at the helm, you believe it.
For more on Bob please visit him at: www.onetoughpirate.com
2. Eric Parker (Carlsbad, CA)
Eric Parker started a non profit called Surfing4theCure. His passion in life is surfing and sharing it with others. He is working on himself to become a better person and really is a beautiful spirit! :)
3. John Schatz (Reno, NV)
In 2003 I was in a rehab center in Reno when I was offered ten dollars in Burger King money to take an HIV test so about a week later I was called in for results …POZ I was thus began my new life. I became a CHOW Community Health Outreach Worker and testing others for HIV and Hep C also operating a needle exchange program NEP we got over 600,000 needles off the street in 2007 and 08. You ask how I got HIV? It’s simple I didn’t protect myself … so my message is to you protect yourself because the face of HIV no longer looks like Tom Hanks in Philadelphia..no sunken cheeks and skin and bones and purple sores making it obvious who has HIV ..so wear a condom please!
4. Larry Bryant Jr. (Brooklyn, NY)
Mr. Bryant is a force to be reckoned with! He is currently the Volunteer Program Manager at Housing Works Inc. www.housingworks.org he is a member of the United States People Living With HIV and Global Network of People Living with HIV – North America, he is also the steering committee member of the Campaign To End AIDS. When he is not working he is also a photographer.
“I would like to see more men – straight men, in particular – standing up to be more visible, vocal, and involved with rebuilding and repairing our role in addressing the HIV epidemic among women and girls.”- Larry Bryant Jr.
5. Derek Canas aka DJ D-Rek (Brunswick, GA)
Emulator DJ and VoLT member of One.org, Derek contracted HIV from a blood transfusion as a baby. He wakes up everyday with a positive attitude and is striving to educate others about HIV and has started his own campaign “End The Stigma” associated with the disease. He speaks to colleges and anybody who will listen. To know him is to love him!
6. John Strangis (Hemet, CA)
I tested positive in 2011 after learning that my fiancee Jessica was HIV+. Although she did not disclose to me her status, I never held it against her because I care deeply for her. Shortly after testing I discovered the dissident movement and became a strong voice for them because I honestly believed that what they spoke of was genuine. After watching my partner falling ill twice to PCP (pneumocystis pneumonia) and accepting a treatment to avoid mother to child transmission of HIV when she became pregnant with our son Dominic (who was born negative), I cannot deny that there is something making people ill and the drugs do work to save people’s lives. I now advocate for the people who are suffering because of HIV/AIDS in the hope that I may make a difference. While I was misguided in the beginning, I believe I can turn my negative experience into a positive one which possibly may help others from making the same mistakes my partner and I made.
7. Shawn Decker (Charlottesville, VA)
Not only is he quite sexy outside, he is sexy on the inside as well. He has used his own story of being diagnosed with HIV as a child and living with it for the majority of his life to educate others and bring as much awareness as possible for the last 18 years. He has spoken to tens of thousands of young adults about what it is like to live with HIV and how they can make healthy choices in their own lives to not have to live with it. He has also been a contributing writer for POZ magazine for the past 17 years.
8. Dick Donato aka EvelDick (Orlando, FL)
Dick Donato is best known for winning “Big Brother 8″ back in 2007. Diagnosed with HIV in 2011, Eveldick now uses his platform and voice to educate others about HIV. Dick has put himself and his status out there for the world to see!
“Look, I’m an open, straightforward, everything-on-the-table kind of guy. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to go public. HIV is a…disease….” Dick presses on, firmly. “This is not a gay disease; it’s not a straight disease; it’s just a fucking disease!”–Read more from Dick’s interview with A&U Magazine HERE
9. Joshua PozitiveHope Middleton (Murrieta, CA)
I was diagnosed HIV positive on June 5, 2012 and have been living life to the fullest ever since. I am a survivor, not a victim, and have been through a lot for my young age. I survived near death from necrotizing fasciitis, septic shock that sent my blood pressure to dangerously low levels, two years of monthly hospital stays, and a five year drug addiction to crystal meth through my teen years. I am one of the sexiest men living with HIV because despite my condition I continue to be an honest, loyal, good looking, comical guy that I always have been. I keep an optimistic attitude at all times and a smile on my face because despite my condition and experiences, nothing is going to hold me down. Sexiness can be defined in so many different ways but for me someone who is sexy is confident with themselves in every aspect. This is the kind of guy that I am, confident in everything that I put my mind to. If I want something I go for it, if I am interested in someone I give it my all, and when life gives me lemons I make lemonade. I am an HIV activist, a son, a brother, a hard working man and a man who knows what he wants in life. I’m not afraid to share my story or face stigma because honestly I could care less what others might say that contribute nothing to my life. I have found that internal happiness within myself and when you find it, nothing can take that away. What some might view as barriers, I look at as challenges, and I love a good challenge. I am in no rush to find love, I am not going to settle because of a condition, its just a matter of time before I find a princess that I fall in love with and spend the rest of my life with. I am studying to be a pilot at the moment and looking to take other passions in my life to a whole new level. HIV is simply a part of who I am but its not all of what makes Josh Middleton. It has been a game changer for sure in the sense that its made me grow in ways I never thought I would. I am a much more mature and educated man because of this condition, it is what it is. Life throws punches at times but it’s how one moves forward that matters. I am an HIV activist because despite what I have been through, I want others to prevent themselves from going through the emotional roller coaster I have. I want to be a part of the change and not simply watch it happen. I am living proof that one can live with HIV and still be sexy, but at the same time it’s not anything one should have to go through to initiate a change from within. I take one pill a day, that keeps my HIV at bay. Life is so beautiful and I am glad to be a part of it. The sun shines a little brighter, nature seems that much more beautiful, and with or without HIV I will continue to press on and live life to the fullest every day of my life. If that makes me sexy I say hell yea, I may be positive but I still look and feel good inside and out!
10. Jeff Hammond (Carrizozo, NM)
Jeff was diagnosed HIV+ June 10, 1984 and diagnosed with AIDS March 16, 1998. He is VERY open about his status.
Jeff has inspired other bikers to join his and Bob Bowers motorcycle tour: Ribbon Warrior MC Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Oregon Tour, from New Mexico to Oregon to speak at schools and to involve other benevolent bikers. He is a very sweet and devoted man who has given a great deal of love and support to others living with HIV and cancer. He has always paid it forward and never gives up! He has a huge heart and always pays it forward with what little he has.
I am EXTREMELY open about my HIV. I was talking to a waitress friend in the cafe one day and some asshole from two tables away popped off with “what are you talking about, HIV is a gay disease. That’s what i keep hearing on TV.” I lost it. Here is this kid, 26 years old telling me that because I have HIV I have to be gay because he heard it on the tv… By the time I got finished being loud and telling everyone in the cafe i was HIV+ and NOT GAY and for those that stuck around I did an impromptu HIV 101 prevention education. I was thanked by an old couple for speaking up and “thank you for putting that young man in place because his comments were disrespectful to you. My niece has HIV and she isn’t gay.” Made me feel good…– Jeff Hammond
I just wanted to give a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who made this article possible! With special thanks to Marissa Smith, Jessica Baoman, Bob Bowers, Jody Eddy & Derek Canas! Without your unwavering support I would have never finished this article! I also want to give a huge virtual hug to all of the Brave Men on this list who allowed me to share their stories and faces with the world. The stigma is real and we all know the only way to fight it is to come out and show ourselves. Finding ten heterosexual men living with HIV who are willing to come forward to the world is like finding a needle in a haystack; no easy task. HIV is not a gay disease. HIV is an everyone disease. #WeAreHIV #ShareYourStory #EndTheStigma
I hope you’re well. It’s been awhile since I’ve written, and I want to take a moment to acknowledge you as we approach World AIDS Day together.
You’ll recall the contract I required you to sign seven years ago when you took up residence in my body. In this contract, I conceded that your continued tenancy comes with these parameters:
1. You will be quiet
2. You will not procreate
3. You will not aggravate, vex, poison, or in any other way influence the cells and functions of the other organs and processes in my body.
4. You will occupy a small, windowless, doorless space approximately the size of the tip of a stick-pin in a deep reservoir inside my body, from which you will have no nourishment, no visitors, and no hope of escape.
Thank you, HIV, for respecting the simple parameters of this contract. It has been a healthy and productive seven years, and I look forward to your continued cooperation. I’m aware you don’t get out much, if at all, and I thought it might be sweet of me to provide an update. Here’s what you’ve done for me–without even knowing–in the past few years.
You’ve given me a keen sense of intuition about my body. Now more than ever, I can monitor how I am feeling. I’m aware of every sniffle, ache, pain, head cold and swollen gland much faster than in the past, and I stay connected to my healthcare provider more than the average person might. As a result, my doctor has informed me that I have the lab results of a perfectly healthy 30 year old man, (except of course for HIV). Did I mention I’ll be 44 in January? Makes every birthday pretty sweet. Thank you for that.
You’ve given me a sense of compassion for others I had previously lacked. I’ve been able to speak to others who are newly diagnosed, or who have been living with HIV, or other chronic medical conditions, and understand what it means to “walk a mile in their moccasins”. I am a better listener, and a better counselor. I am grateful for this gift.
Because of you, I live in the moment. When I was faced with my mortality, I began to see how important it is to be grateful for each brand new, baby day. I see now–all that matters is this moment, and the next, and the one after that. I’ve slowed down, I’ve stopped stressing about what I now call, “First World Problems”. I breathe in, I breathe out, I discover, I discern, and I direct.
I speak compassionately. I don’t engage in hateful speech, gossip, or drama. I am impeccable with my word. I don’t take things personally anymore. In fact, I don’t even take you personally, HIV. You’re here, and for the foreseeable future, “here” you shall stay. There’s nothing I can do to get rid of you, at least not presently.
But, I can suppress you.
Thank you for your cooperation with suppression. Suppression has found its way into many areas of “my one wild and precious life”. I have suppressed “negativity” in favor of a positive and affirming life. I have suppressed fear and embraced curiosity and love. I have ended destructive habits in favor of creative endeavors. I have sought to connect rather than isolate. I have stepped way beyond my comfort zone, because I have realized that my comfort zone–isn’t comfortable at all. It’s safe and contained, but like the place where you live inside my body, HIV, it’s a small, dark windowless room. I prefer the uncertainty and adventure of wide open spaces. I prefer to visit the edges and the fringes, the outskirts of town where God lives.
I’ll keep you there so I can venture out and live life, in spite of you, and yet–because of you. My life as an HIV positive man is a positive life indeed. I have no need of negativity, no need for self-loathing, no place in my life for the stigma so often placed on me by the larger community because of my status and my homosexuality. I have embraced love in your wake. I am positive. I am a beautiful and divine child of God. It may have taken your residency inside my body to get me to realize this, and for that I am grateful.
I forgive you, and I also thank you. You sought to destroy me from the inside out, and instead, you have made me stronger than I ever thought possible.
**Please take a moment to read Kevin’s interview by clicking on the link below**
My name is Megan. I was diagnosed HIV positive on March 20th, 2005 at the age of twenty. I remember sitting outside the emergency room smoking a cigarette after my diagnosis and just being numb to it all. My good friend, Danielle, sat next to me crying her eyes out after I told her the news. I didn’t shed a single tear as I inhaled and exhaled my nicotine. Being in shock is an understatement. Being from an upper-middle class suburb in New Jersey this just didn’t happen.
You weren’t supposed to be a heroin addict, certainly not an HIV positive heroin addict. When the initial shock wore off, I had questions. Things, that when you are twenty and feel untouchable, I had never even pondered. I remember thinking things like, I can’t even legally drink yet, but I’m positive? Do I want children? Can I still have children? Who will want to date me? Who infected me and do they know they are positive? And the big question, did I pass this disease to anyone else unknowingly? I was uneducated. HIV/AIDS had never really been discussed besides the prerequisite health class.
Thankfully, I learned and became educated. I was referred to an amazing clinic that still treats me to this day. No, I did not pass the virus on to anyone I was sharing needles with. I learned I could have healthy children. I learned I could date negative people and keep them safe. The only thing I unfortunately never found out was WHO infected me. I would be lying if I said that didn’t haunt me every day. However, I wasn’t an angel as a teenager so I may never have that answer. In recent years I’ve learned that even if I did have the name of this person, it still wouldn’t change the outcome.
I’m also not going to lie to you. When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t cope with it all. I went on a huge drug induced suicidal path for the two years after diagnosis. Heroin was my lover before diagnosis. After diagnosis, it became my everything. My health began to detiorate. My T cells dropped and my viral load went through the roof.
That all changed when my nephew was born. I saw life in his eyes and I began to live through him until I liked myself enough to live for myself. It took a long time but I accept my disease now. It doesn’t define me. It’s a piece in the puzzle of who I am. The stigma is still there. I’ve lost friends and faced discrimination over my disease. I ask ayone that doesn’t understand to please get educated. Ask questions. Without my family and true friends, HIV could have destroyed me. But I refuse to let it.
I’m HIV positive and I live my life. Since diagnosis, I’ve been in love and I’ve also had my heart broken. I’ve learned what strength truly is. HIV isn’t a death sentence. It’s scary but livable. If anything it made me grow up and made me smarter. March 20th, 2005 is a day I will always remember. It was a second chance for me. When things get rough now, I try to remember to remain humble. My name is Megan and I am HIV positive but I am also so much more than that. Don’t let my diagnosis scare you. Fear gets us nowhere. Love each other.. love yourself.. and please get tested.