Seven years have gone by since I found out that I was HIV positive. From that day until now my life has been different than before I found out about my results. A positive HIV result does not mean, like many people think, a premature death sentence. It is plain and simple, a calling to see life differently and a promise to oneself. It is true that to find out that an incurable (for now at least) disease will lead you to your grave, but similar to this disease, there are more that we have not had the time to investigate.
The complicated stuff comes at the time you find out about your results. Now what? How to explain to my partner, boyfriend, roommate, family, friends, etc. How to tell someone who has been part of my life who has always seen me healthy, going to bars every week, going to work every day, sleeping in late like people do in large cities; having a normal life like everyone else. How am I going to tell them?
First I would need to see whom I am going to tell about my HIV status. Not everyone who is in my life for one reason or another should find out. This is a personal choice, very intimate and one which no one should violate.
But if you remain with it, it will start eating at you little by little. The people around you will notice that something is going on with your life. From that point on, you are not the same. At this time your friends, family and partner become people that appreciate your life and show you how prepared, educated and in love with you they really are.
And, when your family supports you, guides you, and tells you not to worry, "we are with you" or closes the doors on you with fear and shame of having someone among them (never mind the last name) who is HIV-positive.
For some people it will be good therapy going to their loved ones and telling them about their situation, for others, like myself, it is preferable not to tell until seeing how the disease progresses throughout the years. I am fortunate to have a gay brother who I could talk to about my diagnosis. We had good communication already. Now that he knows the truth we are talking more frequently about what is going on in my daily life. When he finds out that I am feeling bad, he advises me to visit the doctor; and, I can hear in his voice worry and impotence for not being able to do anything to solve my situation.
Like the Latino that I am, it is not easy to share the reality of my life; the reality of being another person with certain limitations and responsibilities that I did not know existed. Being HIV-positive brands you forever, but you learn to see the positive side (in the other sense) will bring good things in your life. Being HIV-positive is not a death sentence; it is a code to life, of challenges resolved, of succeeding over obstacles placed in your path after being given your results.
Our community is continuously growing in our country, unfortunately it is also the one with the most HIV-positive results annually among people like me, between 15 and 35 years-old. And, these statistics will not change unless we HIV-positive individuals speak, and it's not only talking with your family, your partner, or your roommate, it's important to talk to those whom you come in contact with -- in particular, sexually.
When you learn to let go of the fear of looking yourself in the mirror and saying "I am HIV-positive and my life has a different significance today," you may be able to help yourself or others from making the mistake that led you for one reason or another to be a statistic of more than 40,000 people infected with HIV annually in the United States.
Educate yourself, learn, become informed, prepare yourself, and accept yourself as you are, but, most of all, love yourself, love yourself a lot. Don't let silence ruin your life and that of others. Talk and share your thoughts and feelings about the disease, but don't let the silence result in death.
If you are Latino and you found out you are HIV psoitive, it does not matter when it happened, even if it's a few hours back. Don't just stand there thinking that life is over. Life is just starting, you will find many new things, but more than anything -- talk. Only by talking can we understand that we can accept ourselves, love ourselves, and above anything, forgive ourselves.
This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Breaking the Silence... (Rompiendo El Silencio).