The Day I Was Diagnosed With HIV
By B. Osten
March 8, 2012
The year was 1987. I remember it was raining that day. I woke up to what I thought was vertigo. It turned out to be a form of toxemia. In other words, a bacterial infection. An opportunistic infection that occurs in individuals who have weakened immune systems. If the news of being HIV+ wasn't devastating enough, I contracted a staph infection during my stay in the hospital to boot.
Like many of my generation, the answer to HIV and AIDS was "Don't ask. Don't tell." I never thought the reality of it would hit so close to home. Unbeknownst to me, my partner of eleven years was diagnosed with AIDS the previous year. Reflecting back, the telltale signs of the disease were in plain sight. I guess I just refused to see it. But truthfully, I was ignorant of it. And continued to be for some time even after my diagnosis. You see, my partner was very controlling, manipulative and abusive. Even years after our relationships ended, I still remained in a dysfunctional friendship with him. My new life doesn't allow him in it. Not out of hate but out of love. Love for myself. It's been a very, very long time since I could say that.
Like many infected with HIV at the time, I went underground. Underground clubs that is. Falling into the lure of the music, the dancing, and ultimately the drugs. But, unlike most of the tweakers, I wasn't promiscuous at all. Quite the opposite. I didn't frequent bathhouses, cruise the parks or back alleys. Rarely did I have a one night stand. I attribute this to being a long time survivor of the virus.
The day I was diagnosed with HIV was the day I became responsible. Responsible for my past, present and future discretions.
I've been living with HIV for 26 years. I volunteer at various AIDS organizations in my community in the day. At night I like to spend my time at the observatory. I couldn't tell you the names of all the planets offhand, or what a black hole is for sure. But, there isn't a day that goes by I haven't looked up at the night sky and thanked my lucky stars I'm still alive to enjoy it.
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