I guess it really doesn't matter how or why it happened. It is just a fact of life that I live with everyday. Realizing that you are HIV positive is a life-changing experience. At times it cannot even be described in words. But I can honestly say that being positive for three years of my life has only been a truly positive experience. Sharing it with others has been an even more beautiful experience.
We learn something from every person that we encounter on a daily basis. It is amazing the way a stranger can affect our lives and even more powerful how the people we love and that love us can change our lives. I believe we are who we are because of our experiences and the fact that we take something of each person who touches us. That is what I think makes people so beautiful. People are also funny. You never really know what reaction you will get from them from the simplest news to life's most shattering.
I think very carefully on who I choose to reveal my status, not because I am afraid of what they will think but just for the simple fact that when you tell someone that you are HIV positive it becomes a part of their life too. Every person who I have shared my story with has become completely affected. A really good friend told me it felt like someone was telling her she was positive. God has really blessed me with wonderful people in my life.
At the young age of 20 I began my mission of what was my purpose in life. It was also at the same time that I tested HIV positive. I had been doing so much thinking about school, work, and what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was looking for my niche, a place to belong, some direction. I always knew I wanted to help people. I wanted to be of some kind of service. I wanted to feel like my presence in this world or my actions could actually change someone else's life.
When I tested positive I thought my life was over. I went into a state of nothingness that lasted for some time. My dreams and aspirations also got lost somewhere in my self-pity. All of a sudden I didn't know what I wanted to do. It was as if someone turned the lights off in my brain and I didn't know my own way around. I think that is the saddest thing that I let happen. I let the disease control my life. It consumed my life instead of being a part of it. I guess the best analogy can be it was like a bad relationship you just can't let go of. Every now and then you go back for more.
Now at the age of 24, I am proud to say that we finally broke up. I dumped my pity party. I know what helped me is that I have so many wonderful people who love me. I can honestly see that now. Having a chronic illness can really put perspective in your life. At least it did mine. Things get a little clearer each day. With every person that I share my status it only makes my life easier and better. I realized that my boyfriend, my family, and my friends will bend over backwards for me. But what I see now is that they have always done so. Nothing has really changed. I don't think that just because you are sick there should be a negative change in your life; on the contrary it should be a life long lesson.
I guess the best way to describe it is the way my friend did when I told her I was positive. What was ironic about it was that even though we are on opposite ends we both had the same reaction, the same feelings, and the same inspiration. I look at my situation, my life as a gift. My status has really put my life into perspective and I don't know whom to thank.
I feel more alive now than I have in a really long time. Like I remembered what life is about, a feeling for life that I couldn't find again on my own. My friend made me realize this when she said, "I used to look for the depth in things, in me, in a partner, in life. But as I start to do the accumulations of things, and enjoy life we both came to realize it is really the lightness, the simple things, the not obsessing, but just accepting."
The not needing, but just the loving... not the seriousness but the laughter. The music and children, the random idea, the useless action, the kindness of small acts, the words you just say without any thought to them. The automatic "wow" of a situation or an inspiration. The hunger of looking forward to tomorrow and learning something new. The opportunity of loving someone wholeheartedly.
I think the greatest response or reaction to revealing my status was a compliment. My friend told me that she couldn't help thinking about me and these last few months that we have been talking. Just thinking all this time when she has seen me. She said, "I would have never known, you are always the same person, and I've always admired that, but now in light of all this, I am absolutely moved by it. Something I can't even begin to express."
I thought that was the sweetest thing that anyone could ever say. That was my inspiration and one of the greatest gifts that I have received from someone -- a part of their heart, their honest true feelings. I guess at whatever point you stop to look at your life, and decide whom you will tell and not tell. I've learned that I am a better person for having lived, loved, and shared with others my positive experiences. I realize now that I have been doing what I have always wanted to do. In sharing myself, and my story with others I have been a service to every person's life I touch, and that is my greatest gift.
This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Breaking the Silence... (Rompiendo El Silencio).