, the Instant Message read.
I don't sleep with positive guys, he continued, and the statement hit me like a ton of bricks. I had to laugh. Only in a chat room on America Online would someone not know what "+" meant.
How long have you known? was the next and most-often-asked dumb question in the Los Angeles M4M room I was in. As if a conversation about this would somehow relieve a sense of guilt. Why would I want to go through the whole story with someone who was going to be afraid to touch me?
I could have been snippy and replied that I've known about my HIV status long enough to see an HIV researcher named as Time magazine's Man of the Year, but my command of AIDS history would not have made me more attractive to him. Instead I shut down the computer. I hate AOL, I thought, wondering if Internet service providers were even around when the doctor told me I had AIDS more than eleven years ago.
I am constantly amazed in the number of ways HIV still impacts my life. News reports remind me I have no reason to complain. Drug advertisements say I can climb a mountain and throw a javelin and, in many ways, I think I my life has changed. I returned to work, developed a renewed sense of hope and had enough therapy to resolve family issues while maintaining good friends. I know I am lucky. I do my best to be grateful by advocating for a cure, quality research and better housing, social and outpatient medical services for people living with AIDS. Yet, eleven years is a long time.
The recent anniversary of my diagnosis prompted me to do a lot of thinking. Turning 37 hasn't helped, nor has some of the challenges on the job, like feeling sick, and relearning priority-setting and communication skills. Managing to have only one significant relationship since getting sick eleven years ago isn't anything to write home about, either.
I could continue this woeful tale by telling you about the bad dates I've had, or the number of months my personal has been online. Yet compared it to the many friends I have lost or those who remain sick and continue to struggle, my frustrations seem ridiculous.
I feel bad for not being thankful all the time. I try to remember those important early lessons of taking care of oneself, but you can't live one day at a time forever. Life can be overwhelming, no matter how many pills we take. People don't make it any easier, either. I continue to learn the playing field in the mainstream world is not level and that even those of us with the greatest survival skills can be hurt.
I don't want to read "HIV negative-UB2" in another online profile, particularly when the profile also says partying and bare-backing OK. I know I will soon be seeing the people behind those profiles on my side of the HIV fence. Like my age, the amount of pills I swallow and the years since my AIDS diagnosis, the infection rates keep growing.
With all of our advances, I cannot count how often I have seen issues divide and hurt our community. The manner in which we treat each other has not kept up with the pace of science.
I want to count my blessings, but I don't want to count anymore.