I’m a gay Latino white male who has been living with HIV since August of 1996. Individuals that I know around me, living with HIV or even AIDS are living longer and healthier lives than back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. However, I know individuals who are living with HIV or AIDS from that time still today. In those days there were limited treatment options. Patients often didn’t feel there was much they could do about their future. One thing they could do to help themselves is have regular conversations with their physicians of how they feel on the medicines that they are taking. Another thing they could do to help themselves is take their medications as directed by their physician.
HIV and AIDS are no joke. Yes, individuals are living longer lives. However it is not without some consequences. Just think about how it would be to tell people that you know that you are living with HIV. Would they treat you any differently? Would they even be a part of your life any longer? How would your family feel about it? What if you told no one about it except your sexual partners? What would that do to you emotionally? How and when would you tell your sexual partners that you were an individual living with HIV?
Then there are the medications. Sure they have one pill that you can take once a day now. It is not the best option for everyone, however, and there are side effects of medications. Sometimes an individual has to take another pill to help ease the side effects of another medication. Sometimes the side effects become more tolerable over time. Then there are some individuals who take medicine with few or no short term side effects. Some of the medicines are fairly new on the market. Therefore, there’s no way to know what long term effects they may be causing.
I say all of this to say that living with HIV is no picnic. However, I’m an individual who has grown to accept and enjoy living life with HIV. If you would have asked me in 1996 if I would be alive today, I would have told you “no way”. I feel that I am still alive today because my purpose is not yet complete on this Earth. I may never know what my purpose is. That is alright with me. All I do know is that I change lives every day that I live another day. I do keep my doctor appointments and have great conversations with my doctors. I take the medications that I am prescribed as directed by my doctor. I have conversations with my pharmacist on a regular basis, as well.
I have come so far as an individual. I am involved in a regional (Mid-South) and statewide (Tennessee) planning group for the prevention of HIV/AIDS. This assists individuals in our Mid-South area with various risks for getting HIV with getting money allocated to their demographic group to help prevent the spread of HIV. I have also become the Chair of the Tennessee Association of People Living With AIDS otherwise known as TAPWA. TAPWA is a bunch of delegates, alternates, and participants who address local, state, and federal policy issues; create opportunities for education; and provide a network of support and communication among and between people living with HIV/AIDS, agencies, and government. I empower people giving individuals their initial results in twenty minutes by testing them for the HIV antibody. I help people learn more about HIV / AIDS through American Red Cross classes within our community as well.
Please know your status and get tested. It is so important to get the medical and supportive services that you can get if you are an individual living with HIV or AIDS. If you are or if you are not an individual living with HIV or AIDS, it is so important to play safer. Reducing risk factors is so important especially in our Mid-South area. This is where we have the most reported cases of HIV / AIDS in the entire State of Tennessee. The importance of knowing how to reduce your risks, then practicing those behaviors between yourself and your partner are priceless and could impact you for a lifetime. Using a latex condom or a female condom and water based lubricant each time you have sex is a way to reduce risks. Mid-Southerners, to learn more about reducing risks in other ways, contact one of the agencies listed on the following web page http://www.mychoicelifeoveraids.org/info.html . You can also call 1-877-448-5669 (that is 1-877-HIV-KNOW) to have any question about HIV / AIDS answered. If you live inside or outside of our Mid-South area, you can check out the following website for more information about HIV in general at http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/default.htm or http://www.nineandahalfminutes.org/index.php . HIV is not the only thing that you are putting yourself at risk for. There are other STDs that you can also catch that are not pleasant to have.
Take care of yourself and your partner(s). Live life to the fullest every second of every day. Remember that the decisions you make about sex may have consequences. There is help available is you are facing challenges or trouble by this. Whatever challenges my HIV brings, I will not give up. I’ll continue to do everything I can to get my immune system as strong as it can be. I will also do everything I can to minimize the amount of virus that flows through my body.
I wrote this to share with you my choice LIFE over AIDS.