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A Journey of a Thousand Miles ...

By Betsy Yung

May 18, 2012

... begins with just one step ... And with that in mind, I'll step off the edge and stretch my wings with the expectation of flight into the abyss of blogging.

Like so many others who blog or journal about living with HIV, I think my expectations are to build a network of people who can benefit by my experiences and who can offer me a sounding board for some of the problems I'm dealing with.

I call my virus "The Evil Hitchhiker" because that is what he is. He hopped on and began his nasty business in about the year 2000 by my recollection. He never showed himself until I was laying in the hospital on life support with PCP pneumonia suddenly in July of 2010.

After more than eighteen months, I've recovered 131 CD4 cells, gained back 30+ pounds (could have done without the weight gain) and returned to work full-time. Unfortunately I also have returned to smoking, though not nearly as much as before. Like others, my intention is to quit of my own accord in my own time.

I take meds, Kaletra and Isentress in addition to the antibiotic regimen designed to ward off the opportunistic infections I would undoubtedly succumb to without them, Bactrim, Zithromax and Valcyclovir. I also take Paxil to battle depression and large amounts of fish-oil in addition to Niaspan to help combat my cholesterol. I remain a little anemic but otherwise I seem to be holding steady.

Because of the fact that I have only had a few sexual partners over my lifetime, never risked using IV drugs and generally tried to take good care of myself, HIV was, at least theoretically, a very remote possibility for me. You can imagine what a shock it was to hear, at age 49 that I was not only HIV positive, but fighting for my life with full blown AIDS. At that time, I had been in a fully committed relationship for more than eight years. The only man I had been with since 2001 (I'll call him Vince) finally tested negative the following February and promptly moved on, leaving me to deal with my situation alone. It was a bitter pill to swallow but was good to know that I had not passed the virus on.

I knew where I acquired my evil hitchhiker even before checking out of the hospital. When I contacted him, (I'll call him Danny) he and his fiance' visited me in the ICU where I told them both that they needed to be tested. Obviously, he tested positive ... and to my knowledge, his now-wife continues to be negative. He began treatment and continues to live happily ever after.

I recently spoke with Danny ... and told him that while I did not blame him for infecting me, I harbor a tiny bit of resentment that the thing that has completely changed my life and future, was barely a speed-bump in the road of his life. I think he understood ... but I think he may feel some discomfort in our awkward conversations. Perhaps I'm just a reminder of what also lives in him. His wife is a sweet and down-to-earth lady and I like her very much. He is blessed to have her in his life. In the tiny recesses of my mind, I still hope there is love out there for me. I do not anticipate or expect that my life will play out in the way I had always pictured it now but I hope for the best.

Over the coming months, I will continue to write and solicit feedback from those who wish to comment and I'll happily answer any questions. It is my desire to be completely open ... as I have been with my status from the very start. There is no room for shame with this disease ... the world needs to know that the gay community is not the only demographic at risk here. Heterosexual women and those bi-curious boyfriends are the ones woefully under-informed.

More later. Love you all for reading!


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