Greetings teammates, I’m Mike!
I’m living, in fact thriving, with HIV here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. HIV is not my focus, LIVING is! My HIV medications help me to live the life I so much enjoy.
I am a long-term survivor diagnosed in 1985, back when doctors told people with HIV, “Put your life in order. You’ll be dead in two years.” More than 35 years later, I’m still here. I’ve been very fortunate to be on the leading edge of advancing new medications. At one time in 1996, I was waiting in line for the pharmacy to open so that I could get 3TC the day it was approved by the FDA. I remember that very well.
I have a spiritual background that I believe has helped to give me strength and get me through the hard times. I must focus on positive outcomes in my life. For the past couple of years, I have sent out positive messages to my friends and family every day — some 100 messages or more daily.
How can we spread the news of positive living? I have no idea how many others may be spreading the news, but I’d like to be an optimist and think we can encourage everyone to live their lives to the fullest!
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been through hard times too. My first partner died from AIDS in 1989. I was alone with HIV at the age of 32. Life isn’t all candy and roses; a lot of thorns have pricked me too. But I choose to look on the bright side of life. It is a choice.
No one I know chose to have HIV. No one wants to be denied love, affection, or understanding. We stand up for what we believe, and we now embrace living life to the best of our ability. Once we conquer stigma, none of us will have to live with this alone.
Sometimes, like sexuality, HIV is a piece of our existence that we have to put in our back pocket for fear that someone finds out. We need to feel whole. I’ve heard it said when one is with others like them, they can finally be themselves. No judgment. No shame. No controversy. No reluctance. Happy to be whole. That is a life we all deserve.
My words of wisdom to you: Go live your life! Be positive! Be loving and free to be the best you that you can be!
This article was written by Michael A. Hellman, a myHIVteam member, as part of the Member Spotlight Series.
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