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Enrique Raul Bernadette Fortunata Heidi Greg Jack Ahmad Lucia

HIV as the Norm

September 9, 2013

So yet another anniversary of my HIV infection has come to pass. Another year of living poz. Another year successfully containing my HIV to a deep and dormant slumber. The day came. And, like most simple things in my life, nothing happened. I heard no fireworks go off outside far in the distance. I didn't hear any women and small babies weeping for me out on the streets. I didn't hear a single bang. And that's just it.

It's not the hard fact that HIV has become the norm in this country that upsets me. Nor is it the reality that at times and periods I now even forget all about being HIV positive. Nowadays the only thing that sort of upsets me IS the fact that I HAVE TO live with my HIV. I guess what I am trying to express is that in some small ways this virus still limits me in doing some things. It hinders me from being a Soldier again. It halts my dreams of ever becoming a police officer. It reminds me that I cannot exert myself in some intense activities like running or lifting like before. And it keeps me from making friends or making great contributions like donating blood.

You know, close to my first year of my anniversary I actually told myself that I would bake a cake every year to remind me of it. I was going to frost it with dark black frosting. Red frosting trim all around it. And a number, marked in yellow frosting, announcing the year I was currently celebrating. I was going to call it my "Death Cake." Funny, huh?

That was when I was an infant on this whole HIV/AIDS issue. And, even though I am on year 7, in some ways I still am. I mentioned earlier that I was upset about some things my HIV hinders me from doing. But, I am also glad that it hinders other dark activities from me. Remember, I am only human and am still susceptible to certain desires and wants. But my having HIV sometimes reminds me with the hard cold fact that I have an obligation to myself and others not to conduct myself in those dark places.

I know that to say that living with HIV or AIDS is commonplace and normal and for me just saying THAT is abnormal. There is nothing normal to having or living with HIV. But, it IS normal in the way that it helps me try to live my life in normality. I try to be more responsible in my actions. I try to take it slow and live my life not at a fast pace. I work as a regular state worker and don't have to worry about life-threatening situations I would be in if I were still a Soldier or became a police officer. It's like living a double-edge sword. I hate having HIV at the same time I can accept that I have HIV.

And I don't need to celebrate my own mortality by baking an annual "Death Cake" for myself. I don't have to get offended when I see on the television how many people continue to get infected. I don't have to get angry at those people when I hear gay-bashing comments, or HIV stereotypes, or go through what I think is an HIV prejudice. No, why bother?

Today my normality means that I have HIV and am still living a good life, period. In the beginning I so much wanted to become an advocate against future infections. I wanted to be an activist in speaking out and openly combating HIV and AIDS. Today that does not concern me any longer. I am content with living MY life and dealing with MY issues and situations in MY own life. That does not mean that I feel for those who are recently becoming infected or am upset with those who are deliberately spreading their HIV. To each his or her own. I just want to continue living my life the best way I can. What I am trying to say is, it is OK if you are infected with HIV or have AIDS and refuse to share it with ANYONE. It's OK if you want to yell and scream and fight openly and be active in our HIV/AIDS community. And, it's OK to just go on going on, living with your HIV and just trying to live as much a normal life as you can.

I know that my newer words might sound contradicting from my earlier years, but I am older now. I have seen and experienced things that have shifted my thought process. And, I do strongly believe that I am growing and maturing as time goes on. So, if you have HIV or recently became infected all I say to you today is just love yourself. Love who YOU are and just take it one day at a time. Keep it to yourself or deliberately share it with whomever. There is no right or wrong answer on this one. But, just LOVE YOURSELF. Don't hate yourself and put yourself into a dark hole. Having HIV may not be "normal" but that does NOT mean you can no longer live a normal life. Just simply take it for what its worth and allow yourself to be a little angry or sad or scared. It will pass and that love that those true friends and family and regular people that have for you WILL SHINE ON THROUGH. You can love yourself and continue to tell yourself when you look in that mirror that "I have HIV or AIDS and I am normal."

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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Brenda Chambers (Herriman, Utah) Mon., Sep. 16, 2013 at 7:03 am UTC
This isn't about the article, but about an issue I am having as an HIV positive mother and grandmother who has recently moved into my daughter's house. I was an HIV educator and tester for 7 years until my liver acted up (epstien-barr or medication caused) and I had to quit working. I have fatigue all the time now so I have not been able to work. I am in the process of getting SSDI, but I had to move in with my daughter who has a 10 year old daughter and 2 year old son. There have been some concerns on what I can do to make sure that there is NO chance of transmission and because I had to go off my HIV meds for 6 months to allow my liver to heal, there has been issues with my brain and memory (I have serious blank spots, like where I left my partial which I can't find) and my daughter wants information on how I can keep her family safe. She doesn't trust my memory and one of the issues is I have eczema and I have a nervous habit of picking, sometimes making sores on my hands. She is worried (and I can't relieve her fears) that I will transmit HIV to her baby when I get him out of the bath or to her daughter since I share a bathroom with her in the lower level of the house. I am grateful to have a place to live (it is beautiful) but am having a hard time finding a way to have a professional do an educational session with her on the weekends. I wish there was some way of maybe having someone do a video or Skype with her or something as we live 25 miles from town. Her babysitter freaked out the other day because when she picked up my grandson, I was making him a sandwich and licked something off my hand. She was terrified I was going to give HIV to her granddaughter (who I made a sandwich for after that). She didn't say anything to me, but she did talk to my daughter and was so scared. It makes me VERY sad, because living with HIV hasn't been an issue with anyone else in my family. Please help!!!
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Comment by: odie (Brooklyn, NY) Fri., Sep. 13, 2013 at 4:04 am UTC
Thank You Enrique. I found that path of just loving me and keeping my status to myself, years ago. But, just recently been feeling torn about becoming more public and active. Then that turned into an internal battle.
So, I volunteer as a crisis hotline operator for youth and newly infected. Thanks to the way I choose to live and stories like yours and other way of living. I can share with them that they live but live their truth. Its hard a lot of days in the begin. But, you finding what works for you; and work it. Your life will become your norm and you will love it.
Thanks again for the great post and live sexy self to the fullest.
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