It has been eight months and twenty-eight days since I received the most devastating news of my life. On March 19th, 2013 I found out that I was HIV positive. It was just an ordinary day. I got out of bed, got ready for work, stopped and got my morning Starbucks and headed to work. Later that afternoon I headed to the local planned parenthood to get my birth control refilled. It started out as any other visit. I gave them my name, filled out the ever so mundane health history, peed in a cup and had my finger pricked for the routine HIV test.
I will never forget the soul numbing sensation I felt the day the doctor walked in and gave me the news.
“What?” Surely I did not hear her correctly. I imagine the look on my face must have been enough for the doctor to understand I wasn’t grasping what she was saying to me. So she repeated herself, and still I could not seem to understand the words that were coming out of her mouth. Then it hit me like a freight train traveling at the speed of light. She said I was HIV Positive. I swear I felt my spirit leave my body. It was like the Rachel I had known just vanished and I was left in this shell, of well… nothingness. At that very moment I wished I was dead. It was the first time in my life that I truly wished I was no longer walking in this beautiful world. I thought my life was ending right there at that very moment. I mean I have HIV doesn’t that mean I’m going to die anyways? Might as well be now.
Wait! How could this be? I’ve never used needles, let alone shared needles. I’ve never slept with a homosexual man and as far as I knew heterosexual women do not contract HIV. I don’t want to get sick and skinny and waste away. I don’t want my friends and family to know I was just diagnosed with HIV. What will they think of me? Will they still love me? Will they still hug me? Will my friends want to hang out with me? Will anyone ever want to touch me again? The doctor asked me if I wanted her to call anyone for me. What? Are you serious? I mean who in the hell are you going to call for me? I just found out I am HIV positive and you want to call someone for me? I don’t even know what being HIV Positive really means but I know enough about what people think of when they think of HIV, and I’m not about to tell another living soul unless I absolutely have to! No thank you! I will deal with this all by my lonesome. I mean I have no family here and the people closest to me are my roommates. Oh no, my roommates! What if they find out and they don’t want me to live with them anymore? Where will I go? Really doc, what am I going to say? “Um, hey can you come pick me up from the doctor and by the way, I’m HIV +!” Yea I don’t think so…
I do not remember too much from the rest of that visit besides the doctor telling me that it might be a false positive due to some Prescription diet pills I had been taking. OK, that is a glimmer of hope. Maybe it is the diet pills causing the false positive. I remember them taking my blood to send off to the lab to be tested. I remember thinking back to the last time I was tested and knowing right away who gave it to me. If this is true and I am HIV Positive then he would have to be as well.
I knew there was only one person I could have been infected by and I knew if he tested positive; than this was real. I couldn’t bear to wait the 7-10 days for those results to come back, I had to know now. I was calling his phone before my foot stepped outside of the clinic. If this is real then he will be positive as well. If he is negative then I know this is just a false positive and I can rest easy. Ugh, why isn’t he answering his phone? I must have called him 10 times in 2 minutes. I knew he must be at work so I started to look up his work number when finally he called back. I wasn’t even slow to say it. It just spilled out of me like hot lava erupting from a volcano. I begged him to leave work right at that moment and go get tested. He said he couldn’t but that he would do it first thing in the morning. I was so frustrated. I didn’t want to wait until the morning. I wanted to know now! But I let it go and we agreed he would go to the clinic first thing in the morning. I would have to wait until the next day…
I actually went back to work that day. Needless to say, I wasn’t very productive. I guess it made more sense than going home and facing my roommates. I knew all they would have to do is take one look at my face and they would know there was something wrong, something very wrong. I was not ready to talk about this yet and what if they didn’t want me to live there anymore? The prospects were way too risky for me.
I spent that evening hoping and praying to God almighty himself to please let this be a false positive. I made promises that surprised even me. I promised him I would not ever take life nor anyone or anything in it for granted ever again. I promised him I would be the best Rachel I could possibly be and I would live the best life I could possibly live. I would strive hard to be a better person than anyone I had ever met. I honestly would have done anything humanly possible to have those test results come back as a false positive. I had lots of hope that evening.
The next morning my friend called as he was waiting in the Planned Parenthood parking lot for them to open. I could hear the fear in his voice as we hoped and prayed together for his results to be negative. The next couple of hours as I waited for him to call me back were the longest two hours of my entire life. Finally he called. I remember his exact words were. “I am so sorry Rachel.” I waited for him to bust out an “I’m just kidding, it was negative!” He never did say that. We just cried.
I knew I didn’t need my blood draw results anymore. I knew I was HIV+.