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HIV as the Norm

By Enrique Franco

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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