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Personal Story

An HIV Diagnosis While in College Brings Upheaval, Questions and Contemplation

Part of the Series Day One With HIV

June 27, 2014

An HIV Diagnosis While In College Brings Upheaval, Questions and Contemplations

Life was good. I had a loving relationship, and I was months away from graduating from my dream college. I was even accepted into an honors program and was busy writing a thesis paper. I was excelling in my studies and had found out I was also accepted to grad school. Then, in January, as I was in the middle of the winter quarter, I began having difficulty breathing and didn't feel well. It got to the point that one of my professors told me I looked frighteningly pale.

I decided to go to see a doctor. I was told I had pneumonia and was given medication. Unfortunately, the medicine didn't work and I got worse. I then ended up in the ER. I was immediately admitted, and spent three days in the hospital. While there, a doctor asked if she could test me for HIV since the pneumonia I had was common for HIV-infected people. I was so shocked, and couldn't believe what was happening. HIV was the furthest thing from my mind as to what could've been wrong with me.

Day one occurred the night I was released from the hospital. A doctor told me I tested positive. As the doctor spoke, I lost my hearing and vision as I went into intense shock.

After that, I was told to get retested to be sure. I did so at my university's health clinic. I tested positive again. I was told I had had PCP [Pneumocystis pneumonia] and my HIV viral load was nearing 200,000 and my CD4 count was dangerously low. I could not wrap my head around what I was being told, and the nurse (who was brought to tears by my despair) sent me to see a mental health specialist because I told her I didn't want to live with this. That day was the worst day of my life thus far.

While a handful of friends know what has happened to me, most do not. I feel such shame and self-hatred, and I fear being open about this because of the stigma attached to HIV. It is so hard not expressing the grief I feel and nobody except possibly others who live with HIV can understand the feelings I am battling. Somehow, I finished the quarter with high grades even though I had fallen behind in all of my coursework and was severely depressed.

Since then, I have been trying desperately to finish this last quarter at school, and graduate with my head held high. My boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend) also just decided it would be best if we broke up. Within three months, I got seriously sick, I found out I have HIV, my favorite professor passed away from cancer, I lost my boyfriend, and I had suicidal thoughts nearly every day. Unfortunately, I haven't met many people with HIV, nor have I been able to find a support group, or even a case manager. Adding to all of this positive news, I just found out that the medication I have been taking for HIV is not working.

Needless to say, my life is a mess and the future that was once so clear seems so blurred and uncertain. I am simply looking to my graduation day, and trying to overcome the depression I have been fighting since my day one.

I am left wondering: Will I be okay? Will my health recover? Will I survive everything I am dealing with? Lastly, will I spend my life alone? I fear, because of my diagnosis, I will never meet a man who will love me.

Although I do not have concrete answers to those questions, I have to believe everything is going to be okay. I am getting through this with help from my mental health specialist, my friends who know about my diagnosis, my parents, and even a few of my professors. Knowing that I have grad school next year helps me get through this as well. It is something to look forward to. More than anything, I hope my story reaches another person who may go through something very similar.

Being a student, finding out you have HIV and not having campus support makes you feel alone, even though you are not. Please reach out. Reach out to me if you need to. When I can get over myself and all of my current despair, I want to be there for someone like you who will go through your day one and the aftermath. Although I often feel alone, we are not.

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 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.

Related Stories

Day One With HIV: Finding Out Your Status, in Your Own Words's HIV/AIDS Resource Center for the Newly Diagnosed
More "Just Diagnosed" Stories

This article was provided by TheBody.

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Dan Gersalia (Woodland, CA) Thu., Aug. 20, 2015 at 5:02 am UTC
You and all the rest of the people sharing their stories are a beautiful inspiration. I am not positive but I do have MS so I can relate to your feelings of sadness and despair. I have my good days and bad scary days when I am so weak, dizzy, in pain, nauseous, and fatigued. I wish you all the Best! Keep reaching for your dreams and never give up! Each one of us can give each other strength and courage to go on! Take care, friend! :)
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Comment by: Jason Q Tue., Oct. 27, 2015 at 2:17 pm UTC
Thank you so much, Dan! I'm doing much better now, and appreciate your kind words! You take care of yourself too!

Comment by: Lorenzo (São paulo, Brazil) Mon., Jan. 12, 2015 at 1:20 am UTC
Hello Jason,

I'm not infected but I do enjoy reading this website in order to educate myself and learn more. I've just read your story and your words showed me that the things you went through are common nowadays. We have to be careful and protect ourselves. I hope you have a shoulder to cry on and to give you the support you need. Your life is not over and there's a long path of good and bad moments waiting for you, for me and for all the people out there. I know it seems to be easy to give you an advice since I'm not in your shoes but I do believe that we have to fight for the things we want. Sometimes we have to face terrible situations but there's always hope as long as we don't give up.

I'm sending you positive vibrations and I hope 2015 will be a blessed year for you! :)

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Comment by: Jason Q Tue., Oct. 27, 2015 at 2:19 pm UTC
Thank you so much, Lorenzo! 2015 has been a superior year over what 2014 was. I'm still dealing with acceptance, and healing my body, but I am doing much better and I deeply appreciate your nice note and those positive vibes you sent me. I send them right back to you!

Comment by: A Davis (NY) Wed., Aug. 6, 2014 at 3:01 pm UTC
This is real! Thanks for sharing. Would you be interested in helping with my new foundation that does free HIV testing on college campuses. My contact is The website is Are you in the NYC area?
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Comment by: Rob (Columbus, Ohio) Sun., Jul. 27, 2014 at 12:07 pm UTC
I've been through quite a lot myself first finding out I had cancer at 21 then being diagnosed as positive at 36.

I was taking care of both of my parents for 4 years when I found out I was positive. Two weeks later my dad died and then 8 months later my mom died. Needless to say I was losing hope and very down but I met someone that was also positive and we've been together for over a year now.

Make sure you have someone to talk to and that can understand your situation. I almost feel like being positive is a non-issue for me today. I take my pill once a day and try to take care of myself as best I can. If you need to talk feel free to reach out to me as well :-)
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Comment by: Jason Fri., Jul. 4, 2014 at 12:25 am UTC
Dear Andrew,
Thank you for your comment, and I'm doing all I can to stay strong. I wouldn't say I'm stronger than you at all! Alsom I've found a case manager since then, and am currently awaiting results to find out what meds will work best for me. Thank you again. I hope you're well, and have a nice 4th.
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Comment by: Andrew (NM) Sat., Jun. 28, 2014 at 9:08 pm UTC
Its a lot to swallow right now but be strong. I know your much stronger than I am. The most important net step is to find the right AVRs to get the VL down. May I ask why you dint have a case worker? it is very important to be linked to the right care.
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