Saturday, August 29, 2009

22 and Positive

Here's a blog from Beyond the Odds blogger Mr. Maximus. Have you seen our new site? www.beyondtheodds.org

In 2007, when I first found out that I was HIV positive I felt so angry that my partner kept his status a secret from me. At the same time I felt hurt and sad. I could not even believe that I am positive. My Ex and I were going out for a year and we were having unprotected sex. He asked me nonchalantly if I wanted to use condoms during sex and I told him that I don’t use them. He responded, “That’s okay it’s your choice”.

At the time his comment seemed a bit strange but I paid it no mind. I did not know that he was indirectly telling me he was HIV positive. I guess I did not understand him. The night he finally decided to man up and be direct about his status was on New Year's Eve. We were in the Castro at a hangout spot called The Bar. I had just finished drinking my second Long Island Iced Tea when he told me he had something important to tell me. I said, “What is it?” He said, “I’m HIV positive”. It hit me like a fist to my face, knocking the breath out of me. I was ripped out of my drunken state of mind and instantly sobered up. I sat there for a while not speaking, letting the news to set in before I said anything. Eventually, I said “I am not mad at you for not telling me, but at some point it would have been nice to have been told. I am not going to dump you, but you are going to stick by my side all the way through.”

Every three months for about a year, I would go to the Larkin Street Medical clinic to get tested for HIV. In the testing room, I would sit in a chair sweating and waiting for the test results. To my surprise my test result always came back negative for HIV. Then one month, my lymph nodes started to swell, and then my boyfriend suggested I head back to the clinic for another test. This time, I decided to go somewhere new to get tested expecting the usual results of negative. However, this time when the nurse returned with the results she told me in a bittersweet tone, “The test indicates that you are HIV positive.” After I got the result they took six vials of blood from my arm to do a more thorough test for HIV. The next week, I returned to get the results of the blood test. The test came back “indeterminate.”

I contacted Larkin Street to inform them that I just found out that I was HIV positive. I told them about my last test being “indeterminate” and they said to take another one at their clinic. So the next week, I went down and got tested again. When the nurse came in, I told him that I just received a positive test result and then another that was “indeterminate.” He gave me two tests, the oral swab and the finger prick. The saliva came back as negative and the blood came back positive.

Immediately after receiving a confirmation, I told my boyfriend that I was in fact positive. His response was to break up with me that same day. This left me feeling brokenhearted, unloved and taken advantage of. I felt like killing myself because I was just diagnosed with HIV and all alone. Our earlier conversation at the Bar meant nothing to me now. One year later, I’m dealing with the reality of being 22 years old and HIV positive, all by myself. I have no family, no friends, no one to lean on.

The process of accepting of my status has been a long and hard road. There are times when I feel like ending my life. The stress and depression that I feel on a daily basis is overwhelming. To cope with my reality at times, I smoke marijuana, drink alcohol and pop ecstasy pills. I feel like an outcast every time I go out because I am almost always under the influence of something. I walk around with my head down so that I will not be confronted by other people. I know I can’t run from my reality but at times I attempt to hide from it. Eventually at some point the time will come for me to face my fears. But till then, I’ll just do me with the hopes of a better tomorrow.
For Beyond the Odds, I'm Mr. Maximus.



log onto www.beyondtheodds.org for more personal stories from young people living with HIV.

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