STD Exposed – Sexual Health Blog https://www.stdcheck.com/blog STD Blog and News by STDcheck.com Mon, 12 Nov 2018 17:01:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 My HIV Story: IT Is What Nightmares Are Made Of https://www.stdcheck.com/blog/my-hiv-story-it-is-what-nightmares-are-made-of/ Mon, 12 Nov 2018 17:01:00 +0000 http://www.stdcheck.com/blog/?p=7741 This is my first time sharing my story willingly so bear with me. Hi, my name is ****, and I have always been very prudent about who I share my temple with. I’d had only five consistent partners before I was betrayed. It was a calm August evening when Ed* approached my car and started […]

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This is my first time sharing my story willingly so bear with me. Hi, my name is ****, and I have always been very prudent about who I share my temple with. I’d had only five consistent partners before I was betrayed.

It was a calm August evening when Ed* approached my car and started speaking to me in code. He said, “You’ll want to read Chapter 3 of that book we got for class.” I replied, “You ready?” and he responded, “Go!” and just like that, it happened. Ed was a football player and had a good reputation to uphold. I was the leading tenor of the university’s choir and my reputation was that of crème de la crème within the collegiate social structure, but it happened. I mean I was hot stuff: debate team’s founder and president, modeling team’s secretary, and the student government association’s health and wellness senator, and yet, I did not use a condom.

I did not see Ed for a while, but I trusted him. Then I noticed he started to behave differently, as though he owed me an explanation yet did not know what to say. He was contacting me at an abnormal rate just to check on how I was feeling or if I felt under the weather. I can’t describe the feeling of contracting a sexually transmitted disease because I felt normal. I felt like nothing could go wrong because I had slept with him and only him for a year, and I knew, or at least I thought I knew, he was not sick.

Then he started to demand that I not be on Facebook. He said, “Facebook is for thirsty people trying to get attention. If they are your real friends, they would have your number.” Being as gullible as I was, I went on a social media fast. This boy must really like me, I thought to myself because only men who are in love freak out over Facebook. I was so naive to think that everything was just that perfect. Little did I know, his baby’s mother had HIV, and she had outed him as HIV-positive via Facebook. I was not told by any of my friends because none of my friends were his friends. We were so secretive about us that no one even knew we knew each other, but then I started losing weight at an alarming rate. Again, being the gullible person that I was, I thought that the various health programs I had committed to were working; then… I was told.

I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was December 23, 2015, I was on winter break and went to a clinic in Chicago where they do rapid HIV testing and a full blood panel for all STIs for free. I got the blood draw, did the mouth swab, and then sat down and heard, “Your test came back and you are positive, sir.”

Death was upon me and I didn’t even notice. I didn’t even hear the nurse say positive; I wholeheartedly heard negative so I said, “Okay thanks for the results.” Smiling, I gathered my things and proceeded to the door. The nurse stopped me and said, “Sir, maybe you did not hear me right, but you are HIV-positive.” I stumbled back into the chair. Her words were like a dry, cold bullet, “Me? Positive? No, do the test again,” I pleaded. She then explained that the blood samples would take two weeks to process and confirm, however, it was conclusive from the oral swab that I was positive. She also explained the procedure of informing my sexual partners.

Now I had had sex with my ex within the past week, so I called him as soon as I got home. When we got off the phone, he was but I had already given the nurse his number and he called back and we just cried on the phone together. More or less, I was asking him to forgive me because I had not known my status [when we hooked up]. He told me that it would be okay, but I couldn’t take his word on that. I am from an African family that does not accept homosexuals. Back in Liberia, the fourth poorest nation in the world, having HIV meant that you would die a painful death, and nobody would show you mercy because they believe that by letting you die and broadcasting it to everyone, no one else would get sick. I felt nothing, I was nothing. I became was the absence of all the hopes and dreams I had gathered within me my inner being and was now a funnel; I always lost any and all hope that tried to enter of beaten hopes. I was so empty. Figuring out how I could get help was the hardest truth to swallow. I couldn’t go back to the clinic because I had church members who worked there. I couldn’t tell my family because they would turn their backs on me. So, the next day, I got a flight to Africa.

I felt that all I needed to do to escape my diagnosis was leave the USA and go visit my family, whom I had only met once, but it did not help. See, my family is from a different world: in the nation of Liberia, when people get sick, they die. I was hoping for just that: to die in Liberia. Just drop dead and perish, but I was not lucky enough to die like that.

The trip was originally supposed to be the celebration of my grandmother’s 82nd birthday, but it turned out to be me coming to terms with my diagnosis. It also made me realize how lucky I was to live in America, that I had health insurance, and that I would be able to seek medical attention in a private manner. Well, at least I thought I did. I spent two weeks in Liberia coming to those realizations, and when I returned to the United States, the hunt for medicine began.

I needed to get medication, and I thought that if I was to get it at school, I would not have to tell my parents. Little did I know, my university had strong ties within the area. I went to the nurse, and when she learned of my diagnosis, she laughed. Then I overheard her laughing on the phone as she told someone that I was at her clinic and that I had AIDS. I knew I was not safe from the word of my diagnosis spreading, nevertheless, I felt that I did not deserve safety. I was hot stuff at one point in life but now I was just burning; I felt that being exposed was my social punishment. Word spread like wildfire and soon, I became the #1 talking point of my university.

21 was my number. It was March of 2016 and 21 was the number of white blood cells I had left. She had the right to laugh. I was a fool, paralyzed in a reality where I had no resources. I started on Triumeq [HIV medication], but the individuals on campus knew that I was ill and started to bully me. I called Ed and asked him, “Do you have HIV? Because my world is falling apart, and I need to know why you did this to me.” He replied, “My health has not been compromised,” and hung up the phone. I haven’t spoken to Ed since that conversation. I went on Facebook and learned that he had gotten many people sick and that was another big thing at my school, so I dropped out for the fall semester.

I went home and told my family. It was the tiniest light amidst a sea of dark despair. They cried for three weeks. No talking, no consoling, they just cried.  At the end of the third week they said, “You are our only son what bush can I throw you? I can’t leave you, but, my God, this is just too hard to bare!” That was when I knew my family would always love me, but I came to find out that society was a different animal.

While home for the remainder of that fall semester, the narrative at the university became that I got the football team sick. When I went back for the spring semester, I was getting confronted from all levels of the university; I mean teachers, students, staff, parents. And all I could say was they got me sick; I was not sick until them. I was dealing with drama more than classes, and I was always arguing to the point I was failing. My classmates used me as a scapegoat to release themselves from the guilt of their own sexual misconduct. I started smoking weed and using meth just to escape. I left school again and then returned, but scandal after scandal came out with me in the middle of every story, but, deep down in my heart, I knew that it shouldn’t have been me; it should’ve been Ed. But Ed was so popular that no one wanted to blame him. My friends turned against me, and I was even attacked at a party.

I felt my life was an island in the middle of a never-ending storm. I just wanted to die. Then my mother and father came to the school and demanded that I went home with them. They told me to forget the college and that my peers were weak and wrong. At this point, I was just abusing drugs, and my parents knew about everything that was happening, so I knew going home was the right thing. I withdrew from classes, packed up my apartment, and went home. I thought that was the best solution but, it was not because, as I stated, I had picked up a drug addiction. It took me a year to figure out I had a problem because I had every excuse as to why I needed drugs. I got into a relationship that I thought was good because we both had HIV, but that soon became a nightmare when I found out he had cheated on me and had given me herpes, amongst other things. After learning that, I gave it all up, checked myself into a drug rehabilitation center, and completed seventy-seven days of treatment.

Living with HIV is like living with a sign attached to every facet of your life. You have to live a life better than you could ever imagine, but, now, in a body unwanted by everyone. You have to live because if you get pneumonia you could live no more. You have to live because there is someone out there [with HIV] who needs to know that they are worth existing. People without HIV just look at people with HIV as this cursed person, someone who is less than. I am not less than. I am the next international music sensation; I am the next leading scientist; I am next for greatness. You feel that you have to be something because all that you are is nothing. See when you are overweight, there are ways to become skinny. When you don’t like the way you look, there are way to alter your appearance. However, when you have HIV (or, in my case, AIDS), there are no alterations, healings, or remissions because all that can shift on a dime. Because of my insurance, my medication costs $3,000 for 30 days, so there’s always a chance that I might not be able to afford it. You never know how lucky it is to be normal until normal is all you are fighting for. It is like a mental illness that deems you’re unfit by society’s standards.

Today, I am living free, but yesterday I was trapped within my own flesh, and tomorrow I might not want to wake up. The time spent between those ideas are moments I need to use to fulfill my purpose in life. I ask myself what is purpose when there is nothing left to live for? Why is there not a cure? Why do they just want to make money out of my sorrows? Why can’t I fix me? Why can’t God fix me? These are the questions that travel through my mind, day in and day out. What if this person finds out about me and they reject me? What if I get my dream job but my coworkers turn their backs on me [when they find out]? What if I die and my story is written by those who hate me? Why does nobody love me, when all I have is love to give? Then people say, “Well you are undetectable.” But what is undetectable but a few weeks of missed medication? I will soon be cut off my parents’ insurance and the search is already in progress. The search for normal, the search for acceptance, the search for love and happiness. This is all I can do in my days of long suffering. This is all my life has become. So, if you don’t have IT, then don’t get IT because IT is what nightmares are made of.

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My HIV Story: It Wasn’t His Intention To Risk Both Of Us https://www.stdcheck.com/blog/my-hiv-story-it-wasnt-his-intention-to-risk-both-of-us/ Mon, 29 Oct 2018 16:03:00 +0000 http://www.stdcheck.com/blog/?p=7648 In late 2017, I went to a plasma center by my university to donate plasma and make a quick buck. As I began the new-donor application, an odd question asked to confirm I am not donating plasma as a method to test for HIV/AIDS; I answered no, and passively moved on to the next question. […]

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In late 2017, I went to a plasma center by my university to donate plasma and make a quick buck. As I began the new-donor application, an odd question asked to confirm I am not donating plasma as a method to test for HIV/AIDS; I answered no, and passively moved on to the next question. Once I completed the application, I was brought to a large room in the back of the building, where I saw dozens of people hooked to blood machines called “aphaeresis,” which separate the plasma from the blood before pumping the blood back into the body.

The nurse sat me on an examination table, and I became nervous as she hooked me up to my own aphaeresis. The dark maroon flowed out of me, but while it made me squeamish, it also fascinated me. I watched mesmerized as the blood rushed back through my vein while the faint yellow plasma sat in a translucent plastic container waiting to save a life. When I looked at the blood, a rush of adrenaline came over me, hypnotizing me of my mortality.

I visited the plasma center a total of two times, but the second time was not at my behest. Through a voicemail, I was asked to re-visit the plasma center to discuss the blood results from my initial visit.

This visit occurred on January 2nd.

When I returned to the plasma center on the same days as the voicemail, a nurse escorted me to a private office and explained that my blood results came back “reactive.” I did not understand what the nurse was saying, but the meeting concluded with a worried goodbye and my permanent expulsion from all plasma centers. Walking to my car, I urgently looked for answers on the internet: “reactive blood test meaning,” “reactive blood test plasma center NOT HIV,” and “blood test reactive mistake,” and the like.

After the diagnosis, I couldn’t focus on anything. I realized I wouldn’t be able to make my anxiety subside until I did like the nurse instructed, and got tested for HIV.

I hazily drove to a public hospital and waited two hours for the testing clinic to open. When the clinic finally opened, I was told I would need to make an appointment but I wanted – no, needed – immediate results, so I left looking. An hour later, I was parked in front of an AIDS Outreach Center. After filling out some paperwork, I sat in the waiting room, waiting for what felt like an eternity of confusion. Finally, a smiling person in scrubs greeted me. He spoke to me casually despite the not-so-casual circumstance as he walked me to the patient room to do the blood work. He drew my blood, added drops of another liquid, stirred the two, and examined the amalgamation like a jeweler looking for flaws on a diamond. I naively smiled at the technician, but he reciprocated a frown and apologized sincerely as he explained to me my results.

I don’t know how long, on average, it takes a person to go through the stages of grief, but the technician sat there with me while I experienced all of them in a matter of minutes. I was in denial that this was happening to me, I became angry at myself, I began bargaining with the past, and then felt an onset of depression immobilizing me, until, finally, the slow realization and acceptance of a new me came around. I was beginning to feel grateful for all the help and attention I was given at the AIDS Outreach Center.

Driving back home while contemplating the current events in my life, I had a firm grasp on the steering wheel and held the composure of a person having a bucket of cold water poured over them. My boyfriend greeted me at the door, unaware of what had just happened, and the fear I had for myself was only temporarily forgotten as I became worried that he may also have HIV and had no idea. He was still sleepy when I relayed the news to him, and he began to cry. My mind went to my boyfriend’s father, whose boyfriend died from AIDS years ago. I wanted to reassure him that the re-occurrence of HIV/AIDS in his family would not be the end of him nor I, but it would instead be met with full force with modern medicine and our courageous resilience; I was sure of this but had to convince him of it until he was tested. Eventually, he got tested, and the results came back positive for HIV as well.

How we contracted HIV while being in a monogamous relationship was easy to answer: I found out that my boyfriend of two years cheated on me. I know what he did was reckless, but what led him to it– the root of his infidelity– is what needed attention and nurturing. After I found out, I still loved my boyfriend, and I knew it was never his intention to put us both at risk. No one leaves this world unblemished, which is why I forgive both of us for what happened. An ancient Japanese practice, known as Kintsugi, involves piecing together a broken ceramic with gold lacquer, leaving the remnant traces of cracks embellished with gold. This practice is to show pride in resolution, the beauty from a loving tenacity, that calamity is inevitable, and love is unconditional. Most importantly, I was able to love myself enough to piece myself back together, admiring my cracks, and enjoying a newly found love for a new me.

Having been living with HIV for less than a year now, I’ve learned a lot about the disease and about myself. I have learned that I will persevere through almost anything and am proud of that. I’d like to teach people that your HIV status is not a measurement of character; no one deserves HIV/AIDs, but we all deserve love and support until a cure is discovered. I also want to say that if your partner has had an affair, cease all forms of sex, get tested with your partner, and have a serious talk with them about the state of your relationship and your boundaries. Risking your health due to a lack of protection is not worth the greatest love of all time.

…[I’m] enjoying a newly found love for a new me.

I’d also like to inform the world that living with HIV has not hindered my ability to chase my dreams. It’s immensely comforting to be a living testament to the power of love. Love is mobilizing millions of people to support those living with the virus, and also motivating the countless hours spent by the scientists innovating antiretrovirals while searching for a cure. I am the memory and the new legacy of the 35 million lives taken by the virus. It is impossible for me not to be moved by the amount of time, effort, and lives that were sacrificed in an effort for me to seek out and live my dreams.

On January 2nd, when I was diagnosed, I had a very different start to my year than I’ve ever had before. New Year’s is supposed to be an exciting time to accept your past, find peace in the present, and look forward to unreached potentials in the future. For me, it was a little bit different. I mulled over my past, I sat uneasily in my present, and I searched desperately for confirmation that I would have a future. Luckily, I found out just how far love can go. It is the hope and love humanity has that I dare everyone to remember when faced with challenges that seem overwhelming and inescapable. In the end, love will remind us that pain is an equalizer, no one escapes it in this life. Love will diminish the sadness in being so hurt. It will provide your spirit with a light that’ll illuminate the darkest corners of your life.

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Can You Get Herpes From a Toilet Seat? https://www.stdcheck.com/blog/herpes-toilet-bathroom/ Mon, 22 Oct 2018 19:44:51 +0000 http://www.stdcheck.com/blog/?p=7666 Short answer: No! You will not contract herpes from sitting on the toilet seat. But why should you believe us? We’re just the internet. The internet is just like… cat videos… and memes… and fake news. Just kidding, we’re a super credible resource that is about to give you a whole slew of facts and […]

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Short answer: No! You will not contract herpes from sitting on the toilet seat. But why should you believe us? We’re just the internet. The internet is just like… cat videos… and memes… and fake news.

Just kidding, we’re a super credible resource that is about to give you a whole slew of facts and figures on why you shouldn’t worry about herpes at all when using a public (or private) restroom. Buckle up kid, we’re going to blow your pants off.

Ever since you were little, you knew that the bathroom was a germy place. It’s one of our most basic truths. Wash your hands, don’t pick your nose, use your inside voice, and don’t sit on the toilet seat.

We are all collectively disgusted by bathrooms. And, don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying you should go lick a bathroom floor anytime soon. It’s a gross place. However, there are grosser things. In fact, a recent study found that your very own cell phone may carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats. Ick!

But even though a cell phone carries more bacteria than a toilet seat, we as a society still have this general dislike of bathrooms. And that “bathroom = disgusting” idea can bring about some pretty weird ideas like, “you can get herpes from a toilet seat.”

It’s Not Super Likely

PSA: Herpes or HSV dies extremely quickly outside of the body. It is transmitted primarily through skin to skin contact.

Even the CDC states, “You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools, or from touching objects around you such as silverware, soap, or towels.”

Studies have shown that HSV when combined with saliva or other bodily fluids, cannot survive at room temperatures for longer than 30 minutes. And the quicker those bodily fluids dry, the faster the virus dies.

Additionally, you are most susceptible through mucous membranes, such as the mouth and the genitals. So, as long as you just sit your butt cheeks on the toilet seat, like a normal human being, and don’t lick anything while you’re in there, you will be fine.

How Exactly Can You Get Herpes?

Herpes can spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex with anyone who has the disease. It can also spread by coming into contact with a herpes sore, bodily fluids (including saliva), and, sometimes, unfortunately, it can just spread through regular ol’ skin to skin contact, even if an outbreak isn’t happening.

That’s right, herpes can spread when no signs or symptoms are visibly present, and it can even spread when protection is used during sex, because, newsflash: protection doesn’t cover all exposed skin.

Genital and oral herpes are somewhat interchangeable. You can contract genital herpes after receiving oral sex from someone who has oral herpes, and vice versa, you are extremely susceptible to oral herpes when performing oral sex on someone who has genital herpes.

HSV-2 was thought to be the only herpes that would show up on the genitals. However, with the increased societal acceptance of oral sex, HSV-1 has been showing up more and more in the genital region.

Herpes is More Common Than You Think

A lot of people get caught up on the terms HSV-1 or HSV-2 and oral or genital herpes, but the truth is, either strain can be found on either end of the body.

50 percent to 80 percent of the U.S. adult population has oral herpes.

45 percent of the U.S. adult population is estimated to have genital herpes.

Yup, that’s a lot of people with herpes. And the media would have you believe that these people got herpes from cheating on a spouse, having rampant, unprotected sex, or sitting on a dirty toilet seat. But we’re here to tell you, that’s probably not the case.

Humans get herpes. It’s a super common and super contagious virus, that, unfortunately, lives in the body forever. It sounds like a dirty word, but many people are more emotionally traumatized by the diagnosis than they are physically affected. Herpes is probably one of the least life-altering STDs to get. It doesn’t cause any long-term damage, it won’t affect other organs (like your brain), and it just hangs out there until it gets lonely and wants to pop up and say hello. Yes, we just personified herpes. Sorry, not sorry.

Many who have herpes are reluctant to tell others about their condition, for fear of ridicule and being ostracized.

This lack of normalization makes it seem like herpes is this disease that “good” people are naturally safe from, but again, all you have to do is look at the numbers, and you can realize that that’s just not the case.  

There are a lot of people who aren’t even aware that they have herpes, due to the fact that it can lay dormant for years, sometimes even decades.

Be Aware of the Symptoms

Here are a few common symptoms of HSV-2 and/or HSV-1:

  • A burning sensation when you pee
  • Difficulty peeing
  • Itching sensations around the affected area
  • Pain around the genitals
  • Pain in or around the mouth
  • Swollen glands
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Tired or achy feeling
  • The obvious blisters, outbreaks, or sores

It’s important to note that HSV-1 and HSV-2 are both often asymptomatic, which means they can exhibit no symptoms at all.

What Can You Get in the Bathroom?

We bet you’re thanking your lucky stars that your sweet heiny is safe from contracting herpes in the bathroom. In fact, you might be about to take the toilet seat cover off as you’re reading this right now. But wait … *suspenseful pause*… there’s more.

There are a myriad of other viruses and bacteria lurking about in the good ol’ wiz palace. Some of these germy germs include the common cold, hepatitis A, E. coli, and in one unfortunate case, gonorrhea.

Hiding in “Plane” Sight

According to this scientific journal, an 8-year-old girl was diagnosed with gonorrhea in 2003.

The young girl and her mother had been traveling with her mother for several weeks, prior to the diagnosis. Since they were always in close proximity to one another, it was unclear how she could have contracted the sexually transmitted disease.

Doctors and family were baffled after they failed to find any evidence of sexual abuse.

Eventually, the young girl mentioned that the toilet seat on an airplane had been very dirty, and she used her bare hands to wipe it off. After the seat was “clean,” she proceeded to use the bathroom, but she did not wash her hands before doing so.  

The gonorrhea-infected toilet seat germs came into direct contact with her genitals, thus she obtained the STD.

This would be considered the first documented case of someone actually contracting an STD from a bathroom.

Wash Your Hands!

Do we really need to explain this one?

Wash your hands!

It’s so easy, and it prevents disease on the reg. Even though you won’t necessarily be protecting yourself from herpes, you will be protecting yourself from countless other germs.

According to the CDC, educating people on the importance of handwashing can reduce respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21 percent and diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58 percent.

That’s crazy!

Get Tested!

If you read our blog regularly, we’ve probably told you to get tested once or twice before, it’s kind of our thing. Well, here it goes again: Get tested!

Take control of your sexual health and know your status. Even though having herpes isn’t really that big of a deal, yeah, we said it, there are still plenty of other STDs that can progressively get worse if left untreated.

Many other STDs are asymptomatic, meaning they could show absolutely no symptoms at all, and can quietly lead to some pretty dire consequences.

So What if You Have Herpes

If you do have herpes, we’re here to tell you that it’s a-okay. And if you don’t have herpes, learn about it now because it’s a very contagious disease, and chances are, you might get it later in life.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll get it from a future partner, a current partner, or, maybe it’s lying dormant in you right now.

The good news is, if you don’t have herpes, you can revel in the fact that you probably won’t get it from a toilet seat!

The main thing that we want to reiterate here: It’s really not that big of a deal. Having herpes does not say anything about a person’s character, even if it didn’t come from a mysterious toilet seat.

 

 

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My HIV Story: I Ended My Relationship With My True Love https://www.stdcheck.com/blog/my-hiv-story-i-ended-my-relationship-with-my-true-love/ Tue, 16 Oct 2018 18:36:52 +0000 http://www.stdcheck.com/blog/?p=7641 I became HIV-positive at the age of 20, by sleeping with a man whom I trusted enough to not wear a condom. He had HIV, knew, and did not tell me. Not only did he infect me, but he also infected several other people I know. I did not find this out until after getting […]

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I became HIV-positive at the age of 20, by sleeping with a man whom I trusted enough to not wear a condom. He had HIV, knew, and did not tell me. Not only did he infect me, but he also infected several other people I know. I did not find this out until after getting tested. In the beginning, it made me so upset that I truly wanted to kill myself. I felt disgusting and I could not believe that I had contracted HIV. It made me feel like no one would want to date me or even talk to me again. Growing up, I always felt that HIV was the deadliest and worst STD you contract.

It was ingrained in my mind that if I contracted HIV, I was one of the “bad gays” or a stereotypical gay person that all straight people think as, “Oh you’re gay; you must have HIV.” All of this went through my head when I first contracted HIV. There was a moment when I almost drove my car off the road so I wouldn’t have to deal with it anymore. I ended my relationship with someone I thought was my true love because I didn’t want to pass HIV to him. I pushed him so far away that I burned all bridges because I felt it was the right thing to do to protect him.

Since then, I have grown to realize that having HIV is not a death sentence. I have to be careful when having sex with others, and I always tell whoever I am dating that I am HIV positive, so they are aware of what they are getting into. I’ve found that I can still live a normal life and do the things I wanted to do, even though I am positive. I’ve found that volunteering to help other HIV positive people like me, and those who are unable to afford their medication, to be quite rewarding. It is eye-opening to speak with others about how their lives been affected by HIV and to compare their stories to my own. I spoke with an older gentleman who had it way worse than I did when he first contracted HIV, and it was such an eye-opener to the fact that I haven’t had it nearly as bad as he did.

We live a normal life, just like they do.

I still worry about how my life will be in the future with HIV. I worried for a long time if I would still be able to become a nurse with HIV because I did not want to infect my patients. I have found since starting the nursing program that I have nothing to worry about because, as long as I protect myself, I will, in turn, protect my patients as well.

One thing I wish people who are not HIV positive knew is the fact that we are not all sex addicted, nor contagious at the touch. We live a normal life, just like they do. There have been times that people have run away from me when I’ve told them I have HIV; they freak out like have the plague. I think that people need to become more educated on HIV and other topics they are not informed on. Sharing food, cuddling, hugging, kissing, or simply sitting next to someone with HIV is not going to give you HIV. Yes,. that are things that need to be kept separate; toothbrushes, razors, etc. But, people need to know that you can’t contract HIV simply by being friends with someone who is positive. Everyone needs a friend and someone who has recently been diagnosed HIV positive needs one more than any other time in their life.

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My HIV Story: I Thought HIV Was A Gay Disease https://www.stdcheck.com/blog/my-hiv-story-i-thought-hiv-was-a-gay-disease/ Mon, 08 Oct 2018 14:42:00 +0000 http://www.stdcheck.com/blog/?p=6248 *The following narrative is from one of our HIV-positive scholarship applicants. It has been minimally changed for grammar and to remove any identifying information.* Being HIV positive for the last three years has been very challenging. From finding out my diagnosis, to accepting it, to learning to live a totally different lifestyle. Life has really been a […]

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*The following narrative is from one of our HIV-positive scholarship applicants. It has been minimally changed for grammar and to remove any identifying information.*

Being HIV positive for the last three years has been very challenging. From finding out my diagnosis, to accepting it, to learning to live a totally different lifestyle. Life has really been a rollercoaster, but this by far is something that has been more of a tornado that has rearranged my life. With all I have been through, I do not wish this on anyone. This disease has controlled and killed many. Staying positive, continuing to live a positive lifestyle, and educating others on preventing HIV is the best way of coping with this.

 HIV was never something that I thought would happen to me because I was a straight guy, and I thought HIV was a “gay disease.”

For many years, I was the one who took chances. I loved the fast life. Money and women were my obsessions. I lived a life doing many things I am not proud of. To say I was ever faithful or a monogamist would be a lie. My fast lifestyle was a big cause of my HIV contraction. I can not tell you of a specific time, person, or moment when it occurred. However, I can say using protection was not a priority. HIV was never something that I thought would happen to me because I was a straight guy, and I thought HIV was a “gay disease.” This is far from the truth, and I am a good example of that.

man sticking his head out of the window

HIV has made me a person who is more responsible, careful, and open-minded. I take responsibility when it comes to my sexual health, and protect myself from letting my viral load become high or getting another STD. I am more careful with my health and careful not to infect anyone else. But most importantly, being HIV-positive has allowed me to be more open-minded and aware of how much one’s action can affect your whole life for the better or for the worse. HIV changes your view on life and forces you to reevaluate the decisions you make.

 

I wish that those living without HIV would understand that they always have a choice, that they are human, and that life is not to be taken for granted. They can choose to make wise decisions or be left with ones that will affect their whole lives. You can choose to use protection that will prevent HIV and any other STD. You are human, and no one is immune to HIV. Lastly, your life is precious so take care of it. Having to depend on a pill, getting your blood drawn all the time, and being prone to diseases is not a life you want. Do not take your life for granted, because you only have one.

My life’s challenges have made me reevaluate my life, given me purpose, and forced me to make changes. I am in school to obtain a degree in Human Services in order to help others. I have a purpose to live for my family, and especially for my wife who I am dedicated to. Finally, HIV has taught me that if I don’t make changes for the better, then a short life is all I can expect. My choices determine my life.

Know of any HIV-positive students? Let them know about the scholarship we offer to HIV-Positive students!

 

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My HIV Story: A Needle Stick, Pregnancy, and HIV https://www.stdcheck.com/blog/my-hiv-story-a-needle-stick-pregnancy-and-hiv/ Mon, 01 Oct 2018 17:32:18 +0000 http://www.stdcheck.com/blog/?p=6230 In the spring of 2017, I was working in a long-term care facility as a nurse. I worked the night shift at a small facility with one nurse and a nurse’s aide. One night, I was collecting a trough (syringe) on a new patient and experienced a needle stick. I didn’t panic. Although I protected […]

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In the spring of 2017, I was working in a long-term care facility as a nurse. I worked the night shift at a small facility with one nurse and a nurse’s aide. One night, I was collecting a trough (syringe) on a new patient and experienced a needle stick. I didn’t panic. Although I protected myself daily as if anyone could have anything, I did long-term care and HIV is usually the last thing on your mind in a geriatric facility. I cleansed the area and bandaged it. Then I checked the patient’s information and septicemia was the worst finding. I called my director several times that night to report the incident but didn’t get an answer, so I continued my night. Two hours after my shift, my director returned the call. I was asked how I felt and told to monitor for any signs or symptoms of infection. That was it. Nothing more was thought about it.

About 3 months later, I recall being far more tired than usual. I was sleeping all day after work, falling asleep in my car after work, and in the garage when I made it home. I had picked up some extra shifts so I just attributed it to that.

When my days off came up, I declined extra shifts and went out of town to visit my best friend. We went shopping and caught up on things after having spent a year apart. While we were at the mall, I felt faint and developed a migraine headache. At her request, we stopped at a grocery store. She then ran in and returned shortly. As we sat down at her home, she handed me a pregnancy test. I laughed and said, “What do I need that for?” She reminded me that she was my best friend and that she knew me better than I knew myself.

I was indeed pregnant. We sat in disbelief as I had just been to my gynecologist the previous month to schedule tubal ligation because my birth control had been wreaking havoc on my body. I already had two children, the youngest being nine years old. I called my boyfriend and he was so excited that he wanted to meet up immediately. We were both about an hour from my house so I drove wide-eyed and in complete silence. I scheduled the OB/GYN appointment the next day.

We waited in suspense for the first visit to see the baby. Everything went well on the first visit and shock was replaced with happiness after hearing that first heartbeat. A week and a half later, I received a phone call to move up my second appointment. Little did I know, that appointment would change my life forever.

On August 18th, 2017, the doctor sat down on his stool as I sat on the exam table. He put his hand on my knee and told me that I had HIV. I thought he was going to tell me that something was wrong with the baby and honestly, I was more relieved that it was me and not the baby. Nonetheless, I was shocked yet again. Then I was angry, scared, sad, and everything else at once. I said test me again, this can’t be right. I went home, sat on the bathroom floor, and texted my boyfriend. He didn’t say anything back that entire day.

The next day he came to my house to meet with the field technician from the CDC. I took my rapid test. Positive. My boyfriend took his test. Negative. The look in his eyes was one I will never forget. He looked at me as if all the trust he had in me for the last two years was gone. We talked and he decided to help me through the pregnancy. Except, everything had changed and he was very distant. I really felt alone for the most part.

Now, the clock started ticking. I had two OB/GYNs, an infectious disease doctor, and a nurse practitioner working with me to deliver this child safely. I was deathly afraid, to say the least. No doctor or hospital in my area was prepared to deliver a baby from an HIV-positive mother. The closest hospital was 150 miles away. I started ART’s immediately. My pregnancies had all previously been horrible due to hyperemesis gravidarum. This pregnancy was no different. Not only did I feel like I was dying during my entire pregnancy, but I was also truly afraid I was going to die.

One evening at 8 1/2 months pregnant, I began vomiting non-stop and doubling over in pain. I went to the hospital four times that evening and they kept sending me home with anti-emesis medication which I was already taking. We only have two hospitals, but only one was even remotely set up to possibly deliver my baby. That hospital was not helping me at all, so I panicked and went to the other hospital because I feared for the life of my child and my own. No progress on my condition was being made. My OB/GYN came over and released me from his care and told the hospital to send me to the closest facility that could deliver a positive mother.

It was the longest ride of my life. I rode in the ambulance strapped to the hospital gurney and, at one point, I remember hitting a pothole so hard that my body lifted completely into the air and slammed back down onto the gurney. When I reached the hospital, they immediately put me into a room and I changed into my gown. The phlebotomist came in and drew a blood sample for the laboratory. The result came back that I had pancreatitis. I had been at the hospital no longer than 15 minutes and, though I had never experienced it before, I was sure that my water broke as I was talking to the nurse.

The other OB/GYN that I had been working with was called and came over immediately. Within an hour, he had delivered my baby girl. I saw her briefly and the nurses whisked her away.

Shortly afterward, I went to visit the baby in the NICU. I spoke with the pediatrician and by the grace of GOD her first tests were negative for HIV. I cried so hard that night.

Two weeks later, they sent me home empty-handed as the baby remained in the NICU. A month later, my baby came home and I continued her liquid AZTs for another six weeks. At her eighth week visit, I made that 150-mile drive and the next week her report was again negative for HIV antibodies. We will return again in three days from the date of this essay when she is four months old and again when she is eighteen months old.

At seven weeks, her father left. He could not handle the stigma that follows the disease. This is all new to me and now I am alone raising a child while I’m dealing with a mountain.

It seems that you never hear so many TV commercials and conversations about HIV until you have it yourself. You see posts on Facebook and rude condemning comments about HIV. It seems it’s repeatedly a topic. The conversations stand out to you like never before and you wonder to yourself if you have ever been so careless and crass in your own thinking about the disease.

HIV has truly changed my life. I feel as if I need to do everything possible now to secure my children’s future because my own future now seems unsure. I want to live my best life while I am here. I cherish every single moment with my children like it’s the first time I’ve laid eyes on them. Their jokes are funnier, I hug them tighter, and I miss them more when they are away even for a minute. I now spend more time with my parents than I ever have and I do everything with a purpose.

I wish people without HIV knew how sensitive people with it feel. It’s not just any disease. A lot of people don’t feel bad for you at all because of the way that it is mostly contracted. They either view you as a drug user, homosexual if you are a male, or sexually promiscuous. That isn’t always the case at all. I wish they knew that the disease has no face and has no preference. People with HIV deserve no less love than anyone else. I wish they knew how scary it is not to be able to afford your medication and wonder how long you have to live. I wish people knew how you could be having fun, laughing, and all of a sudden the words “I have HIV” randomly cross your mind and remind you of your disease. I wish people without the disease knew how much support those living with it really need. Most of all, I wish they would educate themselves about HIV.

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My HIV Story: The Military Was My Life https://www.stdcheck.com/blog/my-hiv-story-the-military-was-my-life/ Mon, 24 Sep 2018 16:45:32 +0000 http://www.stdcheck.com/blog/?p=6217 I contracted HIV from my ex-wife. Since we were supposed to be in a monogamous relationship, I could only surmise that she had an extramarital affair (something she later confessed to), since I remained faithful. We were trying to have children, so we always had unprotected intercourse. The attempt to have children went on for a […]

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I contracted HIV from my ex-wife. Since we were supposed to be in a monogamous relationship, I could only surmise that she had an extramarital affair (something she later confessed to), since I remained faithful. We were trying to have children, so we always had unprotected intercourse. The attempt to have children went on for a couple of years without success. We then decided to see a fertility clinic. Right before we had our first visit, my annual physical for the military was due and you get tested for HIV there. About two weeks after I was tested, I was called back to the hospital for more tests.

I was then told that I was HIV positive and that they needed to run more tests. I was dumbfounded. I went home depressed and considered suicide because I knew what this meant for my military career.

This news affected my life in tremendous ways. Not only was this a career-ender in the military, but how would I survive emotionally and physically? I knew nothing of what it was like to live with HIV and I was completely devasted. All I knew (or thought I knew) was that it’s something gay men and irresponsible people get, and it’s looked down upon on in society. Further military advancements would be impossible to achieve because, in the military, if you are HIV positive you cannot be deployed. For advancements, you are competing with others who may have had deployments and other deployment-related achievements under their belts. Therefore, more than likely, I would be passed over for any advancement opportunities.

Since being diagnosed and I left the military, I have tried to go back into service but because of my HIV-positive status, I always fail the reentry physical. I will no longer be able to go back on active duty. The military was my life.

In addition to affecting my military career, it’s also affected my personal life. Per military rules, and I believe civilian rules as well, you must disclose your status to any new potential partner and being HIV positive has not gained me any new partners.

The first thing I would like people living without HIV to know about those living with HIV is that it’s not limited to a certain group of people. That was my presumption as well but as I’ve learned more, I’ve come to realize that this disease does not discriminate; anyone is vulnerable to it.

I would also like people living without HIV to know that those with the disease can and are living very long lives with medications. And it’s not the death sentence it was once considered. Lastly, I would like people to know that with medical consultation, couples where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is not, are capable of having a loving and long-lasting relationship without cross-transmission.

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My HIV Story: I became a Supplier of Illegal Narcotics https://www.stdcheck.com/blog/my-hiv-story-i-became-a-supplier-of-illegal-narcotics/ Mon, 17 Sep 2018 15:38:00 +0000 http://www.stdcheck.com/blog/?p=6095 How I contracted HIV is a very easy question to answer: I just didn’t care about my well being. How it affected my life is a bit more complex… I was living in West Hollywood when I received the news that I was HIV+. For three years, I wrestled with the fact that I’d more or […]

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How I contracted HIV is a very easy question to answer: I just didn’t care about my well being.

How it affected my life is a bit more complex… I was living in West Hollywood when I received the news that I was HIV+. For three years, I wrestled with the fact that I’d more or less chosen death over life.

This manifested itself in not one, but two, raging and seemingly uncontrollable addictions that were already in the works when I found out I was HIV+: crystal meth and sex. Upon learning my diagnosis, I plunged even deeper into that world, even going so far as to become a supplier of illegal narcotics, AKA a drug dealer, to facilitate these addictions because, for all intents and purposes, and to repeat myself, I just didn’t care about living. Like I said, I was already in that specific frame of mind (partying with meth, having unprotected sex) when I contracted HIV — it was very easy to just give in to what was more or less a slow suicide, Of course, what was really going on during the period of my life was that I was assuaging the immense pain I felt at having contracted the HIV virus.

See, growing up a gay teenager in the 90s came with the deep-seeded misnomer than HIV diagnosis equated death. Once I got over that, it took me about four years, a move clear across the country (Los Angeles to Brooklyn), and an end to using crystal meth (something I was able to do without the aid of NA, psychotherapy, family support or rehab) to come to terms with the idea that by becoming HIV+, I had failed not only myself, but the gay community at large, Also, I was now a statistic. It was this understanding that led me to not want to be just a statistic. In other words, I had to find myself again — and I did so through writing.

journal flowers

For two years, I completely immersed myself in the therapeutic healing powers of the written word. It was during this process I realized I wanted to be someone who did more than write to heal himself, I wanted to write to heal the world. What were my issues that others might identify with? What hurdles had I overcome that other humans might need help in getting over? How could my existence and perspective change the world? Well, you can only heal the world if the world is tuned in to your healing, and what bigger platform is there than the film and television industry?

So, I put the pity party on hold and went back to college in the midwest, where I worked hard and completed my undergrad degree in two years. I also saved money and juggled multiple jobs (there were ten over the course of two years) so that I could arrive back here, In LA, and give myself a second chance. A second life in when I successfully manage life and work toward a career in film and tv, which, in my book, includes a graduate degree in screenwriting.

And that’s how an unstoppable pathogen known as HIV pushed me to become unstoppable, too.

What I wish those living without HIV knew about the disease, what I wish we all knew, what I wish I knew when I contracted it initially: living with HIV is not a death sentence. That’s why you often hear, “Living with HIV.”

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Vampire Facial: What is it & The Risks Involved https://www.stdcheck.com/blog/vampire-facial/ Thu, 13 Sep 2018 17:04:52 +0000 http://www.stdcheck.com/blog/?p=6164 Ever heard of the Platelet-Rich Plasma Facial? If not, maybe you’ve heard of its more Instagrammable moniker “The Vampire Facial.” And we know, we’re STDcheck, so you might be thinking this has to do with Twilight and erotic fan fiction, but it doesn’t. This treatment first came to public light in 2013 when Kim K […]

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Ever heard of the Platelet-Rich Plasma Facial? If not, maybe you’ve heard of its more Instagrammable moniker “The Vampire Facial.” And we know, we’re STDcheck, so you might be thinking this has to do with Twilight and erotic fan fiction, but it doesn’t. This treatment first came to public light in 2013 when Kim K famously posted a bloody selfie after undergoing the procedure. Since then, celebrities, bloggers, and civilians alike have praised the good name of the Vampire Facial, citing it as the source of their dewy skin and radiant complexion. But recently, the publicity surrounding this mythologically-named derma treatment has turned negative after a spa in Albuquerque, New Mexico urged its Vampire Facial patrons to get tested for HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

If you recently saw a headline and you’re wondering what a Vampire Facial is, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got the skinny on what the treatment is, how it’s performed, and the risks associated with it.

What is a Vampire Facial?

A Vampire Facial, or a Platelet-Rich Plasma Facial, is a procedure done on the face to help promote the healing and regeneration of injured tissues by utilizing the growth factors found in platelets.

In case you don’t remember high school biology, “Platelets are the cells that circulate within our blood and bind together when they recognize damaged blood vessels,” says Dr. Marlene Williams of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. When the body is wounded, platelets come to the wound site and stick together to create a clot and stop bleeding. They also encourage the growth of new tissues. This new tissue growth is what scientists, doctors, and spas that use Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy are after.

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is widely used in regenerative medicine because of its high concentrations of various growth factors and platelets,” says this research study from Japan. Platelets contain more than 30 different growth factors, and according to VampireFacial.com, the official site of Vampire Facials, “These growth factors activate multipotent stem cells already in the skin (tricking them into thinking there’s been an injury and new, younger tissue should [be] generated).”

So, basically, a Vampire Facial takes platelets from your blood and re-injects them into your face to encourage the growth of new tissue. Ah, the beauty industry.

How is a Vampire Facial Performed?

So now that you understand the benefits of PRP, you might be wondering how this unorthodox medical treatment is performed to make skin look as fresh as a newborn baby’s skin (and about as bloody too).

First, blood is drawn from the arm and is placed in a centrifuge which separates the red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. The growth-factor-rich platelets are then injected into the face using microneedling (a process that uses tiny needles to puncture holes into the first layer of skin).

Microneedling itself stimulates the skin to produce more collagen, but the added addition of the platelets is meant to amplify the process.

“When we inject the platelets into the face, it tricks the body into thinking that there has been an injury and hence, bring growth factors to aid new collagen formation,” said Dr Munir Somji of MediSpa

On VampireFacial.com, it states that a provider will also paint these growth factors onto the face so that they “…soak into the tissue for further stimulation of tightening and skin rejuvenation.” This is what creates the Insta-famously bloody look that you’ve seen.

Are there any Risks?

Yes! There are always risks when it comes to using needles, especially when the needles are not used by trained medical professionals. The three main infections that can be obtained from unclean needles are Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV, all of which can be passed on to sexual partners.

That’s why it’s imperative that when you receive treatment (whether medical or for physical changes), you ensure that the needles used are either new or were properly sanitized. Before beginning a procedure, be sure to ask about their sanitizing procedures. Ask if you can watch them open a new needle or sanitize a used one. If they don’t use disposable needles, ask to watch the needle undergo its sanitization, and check that their sanitizer has been recently inspected. This may feel awkward at the time, but a true professional will understand your concern and the risks that are involved.

STDcheck.com is Offering Free Testing

If you’ve recently visited the Albuquerque spa in question and feel that you may not have received the most sanitary treatment, please contact us. We are offering free HIV and Hepatitis testing to anyone who underwent a treatment at that spa and is worried about their status. We believe your spa time shouldn’t be met with potential HIV exposure – talk about the opposite of relaxing!

Let us give you the peace of mind you deserve.

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My HIV Story: The Diagnosis Came Upon Me like the Loosed Fires of War https://www.stdcheck.com/blog/my-hiv-story-the-diagnosis-came-upon-me-like-the-loosed-fires-of-war/ Mon, 10 Sep 2018 16:30:00 +0000 http://www.stdcheck.com/blog/?p=6050 *The following narrative is from one of our HIV-positive scholarship applicants. It has been minimally changed to remove any identifying information.* After hitting rock bottom, I dug a little deeper just to be sure that there was nowhere to go but up. Thankfully, I was right. It was my sophomore year of college; I was studying Musical […]

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*The following narrative is from one of our HIV-positive scholarship applicants. It has been minimally changed to remove any identifying information.*

After hitting rock bottom, I dug a little deeper just to be sure that there was nowhere to go but up. Thankfully, I was right.

It was my sophomore year of college; I was studying Musical Theatre a University in New York City. My dreams were unfolding before my very eyes, and I was living the rockstar celebutante life I had always fantasized about. I had recently returned to school after performing on the first International Broadway Tour of an extremely notable tour*. It was an astounding year spent traveling to exotic destinations, living lavishly in exorbitant hotels, and falling in love with reckless abandon.

Yet, although I had just gotten the chance to live out my dreams, I found myself doused under the weight of a crippling depression. Upon returning to school, I was consumed by an unrelenting listlessness. 

I lived in a constant state of internal dissonance and paranoia. Making eye contact and engaging in meaningful communication became nearly impossible for me. 

I was empty and afraid.

While spiraling through the pains of guilt, ignorance, and shame, I became foolishly dedicated to my pain.

My grades fluctuated dramatically, and my relationships with those I cared about suffered immensely. Self-loathing seemed to be my only area of expertise – so I committed to it. 

I threw myself deeper into a dazzling abyss of toxicity that seemed to welcome me with empty promises. I began casually using drugs and engaging in risky sexual behaviors. This led to numerous abusive relationships wherein I continuously allowed myself to be taken advantage of by people who had no concern for my happiness or well-being, which didn’t bother me at the time because I didn’t either. 

He was a painter from Queens. His reputation was written in the scars all over his body. He was a wolf that didn’t bother to disguise himself in sheep’s clothing; he brazenly bared his teeth, and I fed him so eagerly. Our relationship was characterized by a tumultuous passion that consumed the both of us. We were enraptured in the dangerous storm we had created. I was addicted to the way that he would hurt me, and he became obsessed with seeing just how much I could take. It almost felt like love, but, in fact, it was the opposite.

Eventually, the abuse escalated and became physical. It became increasingly difficult for me to justify seeing him. As I gained perspective on the situation, I began to understand just how responsible I was for the situation I had gotten myself into, and how capable I was of getting myself out of it.

I left abruptly on an evening like any other. He was crying on his porch, and I got into a cab. That was it. My healing process took some time, but I slowly began to rediscover the person I always knew myself to be. I welcomed home all of the parts that I had almost left behind.

My health and well-being became my top priority. I started working out regularly and making healthy choices in my diet and relationships. I could sense my life improving incrementally in significant ways. It had been a few months since I’d gotten a regular check-up with my doctor, so I made an appointment at my university’s health center to make sure everything was in working order. That’s when I got the news that I had contracted HIV.

The diagnosis came upon me like the loosed fires of war. As I sat in the examination chair, a complete loss for words came over me. My lungs became heavy like lead, and tears violently erupted from my eyes. I got out my phone to call a close friend and I trembled as I choked out the news. This assembly of moments seemed to last an eternity. I became hollow. The nurse left the room while I sobbed harder than I had ever known was possible. 

Then, all at once, the feeling of sheer emptiness was flooded with an outpouring of anxiety. A million questions raced through my mind about treatment, expenses, my sex life, and my social life. Would I be an outcast for the rest of my life? How will I ever feel happy again? Will I get sick and have no quality of life? My head clamored beneath the weight of these worries eclipsing the strength I had once known.

It seemed that life itself became out of my reach, and suddenly I was so small. Painstakingly, I began taking the necessary steps towards getting treatment. Although I was overwhelmed, I was determined to rectify the situation and reclaim my dignity. I endured months of difficult communication with my family, doctors, and insurance companies. The complications from dealing with the logistics of relocating and rebuilding my life from scratch challenged me to discover an inner resilience that sustained me through this challenging time. Soon after, I was able to start a consistent treatment regimen.

I am happy to say that I currently have an undetectable viral load, my body is healthy, and my spirit is thriving. I am blessed to have convenient access to the necessary treatments and medical care that I need. I have an immense amount of love and gratitude to my friends and family whose support has sustained me through the difficulties I was faced with. I am the healthiest I have ever been. I live out my dreams each day with the utmost joy, humility, and appreciation. My zeal for life cannot be tamed. As I continue to grow in wisdom and unconditional love, I share the abundance of my blessings with those around me. I have become the light I had always wished to see in the world.

sunrise on a like and pier

Becoming HIV positive was a necessary wake up call. It was the announcement that my life was about to become much more deeply whole. I learned to become enamored with myself. I found pride and pleasure in my own strength. No longer would I seek validation from banal infatuations, or look outside of myself for the love that I deserve.

My diagnosis illuminated the parts of myself that I was afraid to embrace, and enabled me to welcome them with unconditional love. As I started taking my medications, I chose to cultivate a healthier lifestyle for myself. I began practicing yoga and meditation as ways to heal my relationship with myself and destroy harmful patterns of thinking and behaving. I have an intrinsic knowledge of my self-worth, which allows me to see beauty and truth in all aspects of life.

Since learning about my status, I have blossomed. Out of the darkest season of my life has come an inner peace and unshakable happiness that is now the foundation of my life. The kinships that I share with my friends and families have deepened immensely. I feel supported and understood by those close to me as I have learned to brave life with compassionate honesty, integrity, and openness. This experience did not change me; it liberated me.

To those living without HIV, I would most importantly like to assure them that my diagnosis does not make me special or different. I am not dirty, nor am I afraid. This diagnosis is merely one aspect of my life. It does not define me as a human being, and it certainly does not dictate how I live my life. I am still fearless, and I am strong. I am still the electric social butterfly that I have always been, and the journey of my life continues to unfurl in beautiful ways. I am grateful to have learned how to practice self-love and discovered how to live a joyful life.

I aspire to inspire others by my example and hope to equip them with a sense of personal power. In continuing my avowal, I encourage everyone to use condoms whenever they may have a sexual encounter. It’s so easy, and they will allow you to enjoy having a healthy sex life without worry of complications, unwanted pregnancies, and STDs. Furthermore, if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship – get out of it. Leave. It’s that simple. You deserve better. Give yourself the gift of growth, even when it’s difficult.

All that I am left with is my gratitude. Every person who has shown me love has deeply impacted my life. Every doctor and nurse who has communicated with me and helped me throughout this process has been a blessing. Every day that is filled with sunshine, laughter, and ease reminds me of how wonderful life is, and how fortunate I am to be living it. My thankfulness is endless.

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