I Have HIV, but HIV Does Not Have Me
Originally Published: November 30, 2007
Revised: September 5, 2012
There are so many misconceptions about HIV/AIDS in our communities, and we as young people are paying the price for not being educated. As an HIV-positive young man, I try to make a difference by making sure people are informed about HIV. Last December 1st on World AIDS Day, I spoke at an event called “You, Me, and US: We Can Make a Difference,” where I shared my story with anyone who would listen. This February 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and I’m still sharing my story. I hope it helps you make smart decisions when it comes to your sexual health: Here it is:
“He who shall not be named” (the guy I was dating at the time) and I were walking from one of the local clubs. To this day, I still don’t remember how we started talking about HIV/AIDS, but I remember making some crude comment about AIDS. He responded, “Well, yeah man, that’s what people keep saying I have.” I stopped dead in my tracks to try and process what he’d said. I yelled a string of words that can’t be printed here. His response to my outburst was laughter, as if he was joking, and a nonchalant wave of the hand. So, I stupidly engaged in more unsafe sex with him that very night. Looking back on it now, that moment walking from the club may have been my chance to get out of a bad situation. But I had such low self-esteem that I put myself in danger, just because I needed to feel wanted.
A couple of months went by, and my mother and I decided to move yet again to another city. We had moved a lot in the past, so this wasn’t anything new. We moved a few more times after that, and then finally one day I thought, I still haven’t gotten tested yet. I procrastinated until I finally had to go to the doctor for a physical for a pre-college program that I had been accepted to.
Everything was fine until the doctor asked me, “So, is there anything else we can do for you today?” I looked into the palms of my sweaty hands and said, “Yeah, do you think I can have an STD test?” He said “sure thing” and asked me which sexually transmitted disease I wanted to be tested for. Trying to hide the fact that I was worried about being HIV positive, I asked to be tested for every STD.
Getting the test wasn’t the hardest part; going back for the results was the true test.
Getting the test wasn’t the hardest part; going back for the results was the true test. So, I went to my pre-college program and stayed away from home for about seven weeks. When I came back, I had several messages from the doctor’s office asking me to come in for my results. I just knew that something was wrong, so I began to do what I do best: procrastinate. But eventually, I went because I had had an epiphany: I love myself and the big guy upstairs loves me, so I’m going to get these damn results.
The doctor took out this huge sheet of paper. He started to talk in “doctor lingo,” and I told him to just give it to me straight. He began to go down the list. “Well, you didn’t have this, don’t have that, no signs of this, and you’re negative for that.” After about the fourth negative test result, I got a little cocky. But, of course, he’d saved the worst for last.
“However, you did test positive for HIV,” he said.
Silence. At that moment I became a deaf mute. I tried to be strong. I tried to hold it together, but one tear, two tears, three tears fell, and the rest is history.
People should know that HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence if you have it, nor is it like the plague if you don’t have it. Too many people worry about how someone was infected instead of understanding that they are simply infected and need all the love and support they can get.
Being HIV positive has meant that I’ve had to revamp my entire outlook on life. I love the quote, “I may have HIV, but HIV does not have me.” It means, in other words, don’t allow your condition to control your life. Yes, I may have a virus that affects my immune system, but I DO NOT have a virus that has the power to corrupt or disrupt my spirit and personal well being! I hold my head high and am not ashamed of the things that I cannot change. I make the virus work for me, not the other way around. I’m surviving, living my life like everyone else—not suffering.
For more information on testing and other stories on HIV/AIDS, click here.
Brett Tucker is a 19-year-old who lives in North Carolina and is a member of Metrolina AIDS Youth Speakers’ Bureau.
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