Another benefit of networking has been the bolstering of my self-esteem. I've come to realize that I'm worthy of being loved in spite of having the virus. Before I had a network back in 1993, when I first found out I was positive, I was afraid of rejection and being treated like an outcast. I had unprotected sex with people without telling them I was HIV-positive. That sounds horrible and it was. The guilt eventually drove me to tell them and they went and got tested; thank God they were negative. I vowed to never do that again. Networking helped me realize I don't have to be afraid of revealing I'm HIV-positive because of fear of rejection; they very well might do so, but that's a choice I have to give them. Not doing so is like putting a gun to their head and pulling the trigger.
Networking has helped me to realize I'm a beautiful African-American woman inside and out, and there is someone out there who will love me for the person I am ( virus and all. I no longer feel like a walking germ. I'm writing this article because I know there are still people out there having unprotected sex who know they have the virus.
It's not fair, and there is someone out there waiting for you who will want you in spite of your being positive. You can have a lot of fun, enjoyment and fulfillment while having safer sex.
I've come to learn a lot about health care decisions through networking as well. Don't be intimidated by your doctors when they use big medical words. Ask them to break it down so you can understand what they're talking about. Let your doctor know you want to take an active part in your health care, and work with him or her so you can live a long and full life. You can do just that if you take care of yourself in every way ( the soul as well as the body. Stay mentally positive and associate with upbeat people. Avoid stress as much as possible. Find out what foods are good for you and what to avoid; for example, milk, coffee, cookies, sugar, white rice, etc. are not good for people who have the virus. I'm a little overweight so I've been on a diet. (It's kind of ironic that most people who have the virus are concerned with not losing weight, and I here I am trying to lose it!). However, I discovered it's important for people with the virus to lose fat and not muscle.
I remember when my t-cells were 127, and resisting my doctor's advice at that time that I do or take something. It was finally networking that inspired me to take action with herbs, acupuncture, medication, and natural foods. The people I spoke with warned me I had to help myself or the virus would do its job and wipe out my immune system. I chose medication and so far, I've never been sick with an opportunistic infection, the virus is undetectable in my body and I feel great mentally, physically and emotionally. There are times when I'm tired of taking 24 pills every day, but when I feel like that I pick up the phone and talk to someone.
I could go on and on about the importance of networking, but here it is in a nutshell: when we network with each other we share our experiences, fears, hopes and dreams with each other. We are never alone in our thoughts, no matter how crazy they may seem. At times, someone, somewhere, has gone through it and come out okay. Reaching reach out to each other makes us realize that HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence.