Fredericksburg Area HIV AIDS Support Services, Fredericksburg, Va.
On World AIDS Day 2011 my life changed forever. I am now approaching my second year being diagnosed with HIV and in those years I have not gotten any younger. At the U.S. Conference on AIDS in New Orleans this year I sat in on an intergenerational discussion for people living with HIV. In the room there were people with ages ranging from 18 to 70+ years of age. Mark King, blogger and creator behind myfabulousdisease.com, made a funny statement during a brief interview we did at USCA when he told me that his HIV antibodies were older than me. I have already faced the reality that there is a possibility that I may be living with HIV for a while -- and the understanding that I need to take the necessary steps now to ensure that my physical, mental, and spiritual health are in tip-top shape.
Although I am in my mid-20s I still am concerned with growing older with HIV. I know that cure research is very close to accomplishing its mission; however, there is no definite timeline when that is going to be. My biggest concern about growing older with HIV is if there is still going to be funding and support lined up for individuals like myself who are living with HIV. Funding streams are drying up, many community-based organizations are closing their doors or downsizing, and unfortunately it is affecting the many people who utilize those things as a lifeline.
Another major concern for me as I grow older is stigma surrounding HIV. I wonder if stigma will ever decrease, go away, or in a worst-case scenario, grow worse. This is why I focus so much in the meantime to continue to be active on social media, be completely open about my HIV status, and continue to accomplish feats like running marathons to show others that HIV does not define who I am.