My HIV Story: I Realized I Needed to Accomplish My Dream
I am a 26-year-old African American male. I have been through so much to get to the place that I am today. I would like to give you a brief history of myself so that you may get to know who I am better.
At the age of two, I experienced a moment in my life that no child should. I was molested by my cousin. I can remember it so well. I told my mother what happened but she told me that it never did. Imagine a 2-year-old telling their parent this and they dismiss it. I know it happened because it happened several times. It was not until I was 21 when my cousin was on his deathbed did he confirm what he had done. He told my family that I was telling the truth and that he was sorry for what he did. I know that I should forgive him, but deep down I don’t forgive him at all.
At the age of three, my mother left me in the care of my aunt because I was not the child she wanted. When I would say, “Mommy I love you.” She would respond, “I don’t love you. Maybe if you were a girl, I would love you.” That is something that hurts me to this day whenever I think about it or see her. She eventually moved to another state, so I only saw her during family gatherings until she moved back home when I was 4. She had my little sister that same year. I was still trying to make her love me then, but I never succeeded. She would pay attention to every child in our small neighborhood except me.
Despite this, I survived.
I lived with my aunt when I was two, by four she took guardianship over me. My aunt’s boyfriend at the time was the father figure I never had. He was the best man in my eyes; he helped me with my homework, taught me how to ride a bike, how to hunt, fish, and so much more. He took care of me.
He died when I was 13.
Sometime after his death, my aunt started dating another guy who was okay at first. But then, when I was 14, he moved in with us and things started to change. He would do little weird things that made me uncomfortable. I would try to shake them off and act like they were nothing, but then, one day, he waited until my aunt was gone, held me down, and forced himself inside me. I had engaged in consensual sex before, but this was not something that I wanted from him. I told my aunt and she just told me to stop lying. It happened a few more times, and I kept telling her, but she would just brush it off. At this point, I was feeling all alone…like no one cared about me.
I tried to kill myself. After my attempt, I woke up in the hospital. Later I was sent to a residential treatment center where I learned to love myself again. During this time away from home, my biological mother and little sister’s house burned down, so they moved in with my aunt. While they were there, my aunt walked in on her boyfriend trying to mess with my sister and a cousin that she was babysitting.
After that, she believed what I had told her about him, so we decided to take him to court. But, when if was finally time to go to court, she changed her mind. She began to treat me unfairly and the Department of Human Services was always at our house. Eventually, I ended up in the care of Child Protective Services, with other children my age. Those kids didn’t have goals nor a drive like I did. They weren’t motivated to turn their negative situations into positive ones.
Instead, they became more lost in the system; a system I refused to get sucked into.
Rather than do that, I learned how to make the system work for me, and I emancipated myself but, despite this, at 18, I went back to take care of my now dying aunt. I took care of her even though she hadn’t believed me or taken that guy to court. It was not easy taking care of her, but I did it until the very end.
I didn’t go to college until I was 22. Initially, I was not focused. I was partying and enjoying living away from the people who didn’t care about me. Eventually, I settled down, and I started dating a guy who I was crazy about.
I normally practiced safe sex, but, with him, it was different. Unbeknownst to me, he had HIV and was not taking medication. He knew that he would give me the virus, but he gave it to me anyway. I didn’t realize until I started to feel sick for no reason. I was due to get checked out anyway so I went, and at my appointment, I was diagnosed with HIV. I cried for weeks and lost my way in school.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized I could still be myself and live with this virus. At the age of 24, I realized that I needed to accomplish the dream I’d had since I was 16: becoming a social worker. I knew that was my calling. I kept telling myself I needed to get my stuff together to meet this goal.
That is how I got to where I am today. I must say being HIV positive has taught me that I am tougher than I ever thought. I can do things that I never thought I could.
The one thing that I want people to know about the virus is it will kill you if you let it.
You cannot let this take you down, because if you do, you just might not get back up. That is the absolute truth. I have seen people who have HIV just let it get them down and they stay there. HIV is something that you can live a normal, healthy life with. I do have health issues, but my HIV is undetectable thanks to medication. The medicine also allows me to have sex with others and not pass this virus on to them. I know that most people think that HIV is AIDS which is not true. You can live with HIV and never get AIDS if you take care of yourself.