I felt disgusting, dirty, and worthless. I just could not quite wrap my head around the fact that at the age of only 25, I was diagnosed with HIV. I have faced many struggles since. I immediately fell into depression. I felt like my life had been stripped away and that I had no purpose. I contemplated suicide. I even tried to overdose on painkillers, but I had built up a pretty high tolerance to the pills.
It was also hard for me to face the gay community. Not many guys were open to the fact that I was positive. Some were actually pretty cruel about it. Now, I know that they were just uneducated, ignorant, and stuck on the stigma. I felt alone. I thought no one would ever accept me for who I was, and that people would just define me as ‘HIV-positive’.
Surprisingly, it did not take much time for me to accept that I am HIV positive and to embrace my status. I started going to therapy, which I highly recommend to anyone who is newly diagnosed. It really helped. It was great talking to someone who had no idea who I was. The therapist helped me come to terms with my diagnosis. The more I repeated “I’m HIV positive,” the more I was able to accept it.
I have decided to create awareness about this stigma, not just for myself but also to act as a voice for people who are too scared to speak up and who still cannot accept the fact that they are HIV-positive. I want to give hope to the newly diagnosed and be there for anyone who needs help, guidance, acceptance, or a shoulder to cry on.
I also want to educate people on how the virus works, how to maintain a suppressed viral load, how to practice safer sex, and ways to prevent transmission. I want people to know that our lives are just as boring as anyone else’s. I want to help break the stigma for all generations and create a world where HIV eventually does not exist.
I guess I had it good. My family and friends were more than supportive of me and have stuck by my side since the beginning. I do not think they understand how much it means to me. I can honestly say that if I did not have them in my life, I do not know where I would be today, if at all. I am doing this to help others find acceptance with themselves and to be there when no one else is. I had all the support in the world, and now I think it is my turn to give back and help.
We all get caught up in our heads during negative situations, but we neglect to realize that we can turn it around and make something positive out of it. At the end of the day, we are all human. We make mistakes and stupid life choices and get ourselves stuck in situations which could have been avoided. All of our hearts beat and all of us have some purpose for existing. I think I have found mine.