September 19, 2013
Something, something, silver lining.
Truth be told, I prefer opinion pieces over write-your-heart-out ones. Just like I prefer people singing on talent shows over their "I cut my finger when I was 3 and have been singing about it ever since" backstories. (Yes, X-Factor, this one's for you!)
Nonetheless, the day of my diagnosis is one of my happiest memories, so it shouldn't be too depressing a story!
Flashback. December 2009. I have the flu. Or so I thought. I was surprised at first, confused: I had never had the flu. As I was stuck in bed for days, I just hoped it would get better before Christmas.
I was stupid, too; driving back home, a good few hundred miles in the snow, tired like never before. I just didn't know any better. I wasn't really the type to get sick and definitely not the type to moan about it. I carried on with my business.
Fast-forward to June 2010. It was at the beginning of the month. I'm pretty sure it was a Thursday. *Opens calendar*. So ... that would make it Thursday, 3rd June 2010. Maybe I should make a note, but then again, what for? I won't be buying a cake on that day or commemorating in any way.
The day my life changed, forever?
Dramatic drums! Well, it did change, but I wouldn't say it got worse. It just became different.
I had been dating since January and, as I was in town for the afternoon, I just decided to go and get checked. I didn't think I would have anything. I was just there, had nothing else to do, and hadn't been tested since the previous summer.
Blood was taken. I felt, as usual, a familiar mix of 99% "Nothing to declare" vs. 1% "What if?"
They came back a few minutes later: "You tested positive to the quick test for HIV." I didn't react at first. Surely, it couldn't be. They must have been joking, trying to shock me maybe. "From our conversation, we weren't expecting it."
Thinking back, a strange thing to say. But, indeed, how? When? Who? The questions started to pop up randomly. They took another sample "to make sure." It could have been a false positive.
They needed more blood to run more thorough tests. I still felt fine at that stage, until I was told to "Breathe normally, please" whilst more blood was being drawn. That's when I realised that whilst my brain had frozen, my body was in shock.
I'm not sure anymore what happened exactly in the few minutes afterwards. I think I was told to come back another day to meet a doctor.
Too late for me, but what about him?
As soon as I went out, I called my then boyfriend. It was in the middle of the afternoon, he was at work and I've never been big on phone calls. He immediately knew there was something wrong.
"I went for a checkup ... and it wasn't good news."
He told me later that he turned a whiter shade of pale. We met in a park and my legs gave up on me as soon as he arrived. I fell in his arms, fell on the grass and started sobbing. I wasn't too concerned with my health. I was worried he was infected too. He tried to comfort me, but I could sense the same thought was going through his mind.
Not the "couple checkup" I had in mind.
We went back to the clinic. He went in. I waited outside, nervous. We had always used condoms for anal sex, but never for oral sex; cum had been involved at times. Boys will be boys.
Have I passed it on to him? How would he feel? What if, maybe, he had it first and passed it on to me? How would that make me feel?
I called four friends whilst I was waiting, to tell them about my diagnosis. It was something to do whilst he was in to get tested. Whether male or female, gay or straight, they all were supportive despite the initial shock and surprise.
He came out of the clinic. Negative. Relieved. He would need to come back in a few weeks, to confirm, but it was a good sign.
After the storm ...
We made our way back to mine. There was an awkwardness, a silence to let what had just happened sink in. It was fine and it was going to be fine. I felt no different. I wasn't sick. I didn't need treatment. I wasn't sad. I was just unsure about what the future would hold for me, for our relationship, for our sex life.
I did not know then what I know now: It wasn't going to change anything. We would carry on dating for another 6 months, having as much sex as ever (albeit being more conscious of what to do and not to do); we would still be the same, able to care for one another, living a normal life.
... comes a rainbow.
He kept asking me how I was, as you do when you are worried and can't get your mind off it.
"I don't want you to hate me," I said.
"I don't hate you. If anything, it's quite the opposite, I think I love you."
"I love you too."
It hadn't been voiced before. I hadn't even realised it was there, but in that instant, it felt right, it felt true.
No matter how cheesy it sounds now, what was said or what I feel recalling it: Love was to be stronger than HIV. Both were in my blood, but only one could make it boil with passion.
No matter how tough life can get, no matter how the virus affects me, love made the day of my diagnosis a happy memory.
It always will be.
From Tom: I'm a Londoner in my late 20s and I'm gay. I was diagnosed in 2010 and started blogging about it in 2013. I hoped to show, like many others on the Web, that it's not all doom and gloom living with HIV.
Want to share your own "Day One With HIV" story of finding out your diagnosis? Write out your story (1,000 words or fewer, please!), or film a YouTube video, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the coming months, we'll be posting readers' "Day One" stories here in our HIV/AIDS Resource Center for the Newly Diagnosed. Read other stories in this series.