I was diagnosed with HIV in 2007, but I contracted the virus in 2003 from a former partner. Before we began seeing one another, I had most recently tested negative for HIV. He had been tested within the previous six months and had also tested negative, while assuring me he always used protection.
In the subsequent few months, there were several times we didn’t use protection (I know it takes two to tango). We eventually ended up breaking things off for reasons unrelated to unsafe sex, but due to him having slept with others while still seeing me. Shortly afterward, I decided to get tested. Given his unknown HIV status and our inconsistent condom use, I knew I was at a legitimate and realistic risk for HIV. It was a reality I accepted, so I made an appointment.
Going into the clinic, I knew my risk — so the diagnosis didn’t really come as a shock. It was a, “Wow, I can’t believe it. Really? I knew I was at risk, but …” surprise for me.
Anyone can get tested for HIV knowing there is that possibility of a positive result. With the current advances in treatment for HIV, it has become a manageable chronic condition, which can put a person’s mind at ease when going in for testing. Yet, when you hear the words “It’s positive” and “Your positive result has been confirmed,” it’s obviously life-changing.
I remember telling myself over and over after I received my positive results, “I don’t want to go through this. I don’t want to live with this illness, let alone having to go through lifelong treatment for HIV.” That being said, getting to know others in my support group for those living with HIV brought me into focus. It was a springboard to know there is a great life ahead for me — and to live it.
When I was diagnosed with HIV, I had the typical thoughts anyone would have. I asked myself, “Will I develop AIDS? How long will I live? Will the treatment continue to get better? What about dating? Who do I tell? How severe will side effects from the medications be? How do I tell others I have HIV?”
Yet one of the most significant and negatively impactful thoughts I experienced at the time of my diagnosis was the (still ongoing) stigma of this chronic condition. It put me into an emotional and mental rollercoaster of fear, anxiety, regret, sadness, depression, and anger. I was now diagnosed with the “dirty disease.” I had the “dirty little secret kept in the medicine cabinet.” I tested positive for the disease everyone talked about and warned you about; the disease that would toss you out of social circles as an outcast. Yet, there I was with the news that I had HIV.
That being said, many of my feelings and thoughts were directed toward my value and dignity as a human being. Looking back now, after 18 years of living with HIV, I say to myself, “What a wonderful human being I am. What a good person I am, with dignity and self-worth. Our chronic illnesses — physical, mental, or emotional — make our light shine through every shade of darkness.”
My Perspective articles discuss HIV from a specific point of view. My Perspective articles don’t reflect the opinions of MyHealthTeams staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. MyHIVTeam content isn’t intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.