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Does HIV Still Bother Me, After 22 Years?

By River Huston

February 1, 2013

This piece was written in early January, before River left for India (she's there now!).

This morning as I was walking my dog, I was doing a mental checklist about what I need to do before I take my upcoming trip to India. I thought I should get some blood work done before I go. Then, as my mind sometimes does, it wandered. I thought Why not get another HIV test? It has been 22 years since I had one. As I continued my walk down to the ocean I started to fantasizing about what it would feel like to receive a negative result.

"Good news, Ms Huston: You are HIV negative."

Even the words seem foreign: HIV negative. But as I said them in my fantasy nurse voice, my heart lifted and it felt like a huge weight was lifted. I was shocked! After all this time I really did not think HIV had that much effect on me. It has been over two decades. I am relatively healthy, I barely think about HIV except when I take my meds and that is usually just a thought, "Don't forget the pills!" Done. But in this little daydream I was free of the pills, I was free of being seen as someone who is diseased (Just go on a regular internet dating site; the phrase, Disease and drug free, you be the same is common).

It would mean saving thousands of dollars in health care each year, and no more quarterly doctor visits. Gone would be the underlying fear of getting sick, especially when I travel overseas.

I also realized I still had despair and depression about carrying the burden of living with AIDS. It made me maudlin and the rest of the day I kind of gave up. Every day I walk, eat right, try and connect with someone for a laugh, write, paint, a whole host of activities to keep my spirits lifted. I didn't feel like it today and went back to bed. Had a pity party and no one else was invited. (Until now; welcome everyone!)

I have fought for all these years to not let HIV get me down and I believed I had conquered it but after my morning walk I have come to believe that you cannot outrun your reality. This is my hardship in my life. It affects me in a myriad of ways, some I was barely aware of until today. So what to do? Give up or continue to do the work? The option to sit in my room and try and sleep it away didn't really work out well. So onward I go.

As I write this I am sad but oh well, that is life. This month three of my friends chose to commit suicide. Their demons got the best of them. It has been shocking, distressing and in one case devastating. So there is always that permanent exit, but I see I have a choice. Today I grieved another kind of loss. I mourned for the life that could have been if I had not become infected. Who knows what it would have looked like or what challenges I would have faced? AIDS, yep, I said it, is my forever roommate, bad houseguest, crappy relationship, but I don't have to think about every minute of every day. I can let these thoughts sink back down into my unconscious and add a prayer in the morning for a cure.


Battle Weary: A Poem

12/27/12

Is it over yet?
crawling from a foxhole
made in the dirt
thirty years deep
the bodies are piled up
some old as cordwood
other freshly departed

Goodbye Ben
baby honey boy
you texted me
just last night
don't get it bro
but you're in God's hands now

You didn't get the memo?
it gets better, man
but I get it
you just worn out
worn down

How long can you live
with death firmly planted by your side?
it's that way for everyone
but for us it's visible loud
intrusive
bony hand on your shoulder reminding you
of everything you ever done wrong

I manage it
just some days the insides
turn to mud
and i can't get a grip

When the smoke cleared and the artillery
went from heavy mortars
to the occasional sniper fire
you'd think I'd handle it
cause i did the big fights
I survived sister
but it seems to have gotten worse though
when everyone was dying
somehow it was easier
it's that lone warrior
falling when you least expect it
it takes me down every time

This sadness is fierce
grief rolled up like punch
my ghosts
are loud
especially late at night
waking to conversations
long forgotten

My love, my love
how i miss you

Sunrise brings another day
some tea
put on the good face
the sea helps
if it doesn't make me cry
it gets me through another day




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