In June of 1992, I went to my primary doctor with complaints of fatigue. He preformed a routine physical and ordered some labs. Upon my follow up visit a week later I would learn I was HIV positive. I remember how nonchalant the doctor was about the whole ordeal, it made me feel that it was something I didn’t have to worry about.
I was living in Walnut, California near LA. I ignored my illness because I didn’t think it was serious, HIV education didn’t exist like it does today and my health care provider sure didn’t educate me on it. Around me people were dropping like flies, one week a vibrant friend was living it up then the next week on the dance floor, you’d hear they had died, but no one would talk about why they were dying; my life, though, went on. I had a child in 1998, who is HIV negative and a miracle in hindsight.
In 2000, I developed Pneumocystis Pneumonia and was diagnosed with AIDS. I had successfully cruised through the 90’s without being sick or the need to visit the doctor, but despite my luck the virus had other plans now. I was educated on the way the illness works and put on a treatment regimen. I spent a week at the ICU in isolation before my mother would be able to take me to her home, I had an oxygen machine at age 36. I went from 180 lbs to 135 lbs, my mother didn’t want me to look in a mirror at first. The shock sent me into a screaming fit, I remember asking her if this was the end.
I recovered slowly and my health got better, my mother pushing me the whole time to get up and walk. The oxygen tank, even though portable, was quite embarrassing for me to take out in public; this was around the time I started to hear hush conversations about my diagnosis. “ Is it safe to drink from the same cups? Can he be around the kids?,” situations and feelings people didn’t have to confront up until then, I can say I have never had any doors closed on me at least.
After my experience with such a health scare, I dove into learning how to live with this illness. I harbored no malicious feelings towards anyone about my sickness or lack of patient education I had received in the early days. It seemed life had just gone up from there.
Today I am married again, my husband is not living with the virus. In the beginning he was not educated on HIV transmission. We both know now that as long as I take my medications I will not be able to transmit the virus to him.
Recently, I found out that we are what people call a magnetic couple! It truly amazes me how far I have come and HIV treatment has made it possible. I would like to share more, but one thing I’d like to share now; education is key. If your receive an HIV diagnosis, please learn everything you can about how it is going to affect your health and lifestyle. I was lucky not to have transmitted HIV to anyone while I was untreated and uneducated, now days you have no excuse not to be educated.