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Surviving HIV

By River Huston

June 17, 2009

You know how people like Tony Robbins will ask, "What if you had only six months left to live? Are you satisfied with the direction of your life? Are you living your dreams?"

After you are diagnosed with HIV, these thoughts often come up as well. I know they did for me after I found out I was HIV positive in my last year of college in New York City.

The six months stretched into 18 years. And I did change my life. I went from being an aerobics instructor whose only goal was to have a nice butt, to composing a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish in this life.

First on my to-do list was to be a motivational speaker. This happened after I saw Marianne Williamson at Town Hall in 1992. I thought -- I can do that.

So I did. To date, I have done well over 2,000 appearances.

Next, I decided that I wanted to write a book. Check. I wrote five books.

Then I had a brainstorm. I wanted to do a one-woman show. Check. I did several.

I never saw anyone doing stand-up comedy about living with AIDS and thought I should fill that much-needed void. Do stand-up comedy. Check.

(By they way, this is best not attempted without professional supervision -- There is a reason no one has done it. It can be very painful, especially when trying to do jokes about a dead husband and living with AIDS.)

OK, I never reached the pinnacle I was shooting for -- Pulitzers and Tonys -- but all the same, I set out to do something and I did it.

Now what? I decided I wanted to get married and buy a Lexus, as well as anything else I could get my hands on.

Yep, I am one of those people who bought a house way beyond my means, no money down, never even looked at the papers because I thought, "What the hell, I am going to die, anyhow. Might as well die in beautiful estate driving a luxury vehicle." Made sense to me at the time ... that is until I realized I was going to live and have to pay for it all. Shit!

So here I am alive and chances are I am going to stay that way until I get hit by a bus or God forbid, reach old age and die of natural causes, whatever that means. So now I am faced with another set of questions: What if I am going to live for say 50 more years? Am I satisfied with the direction of my life? Am I living my dreams?

NOOOOO! I am feeding the beast -- that is paying for a mortgage, medical expenses, insurance. I am married to a man 20 years younger who watches cartoons in his underwear while eating Cap’n Crunch out of the box.

Though I have to say, my husband is a phenomenal guy. We have been together for nine years. It is the longest I have been with anyone. The others kept dying, no fault of my own.

Still as amazing as he is, I never wanted to settle down. And disease or no disease, I never wanted kids. Except for the 10 minutes right before my clock stopped ticking.

So what to do? Ditch it all, get a backpack, head to Afghanistan, become a war correspondent? I can't anymore. I'm attached. That's what happens when you live.

When I was dying, I called my husband "him" or "honey." The dogs were "little dog," "medium dog" and "big dog." I didn't want to get too familiar since I would be departing soon. But now it is Duncan, Lola, Bear and Buddy and not just that, I have chickens I am attached to as well. Fricking chickens! I am living some kind of Green Acres nightmare!

And I have become very soft. Now that the drugs have kicked in (just HIV meds, people) I realize I like the comfort of my home and I did just pay off the car. I am deeply in love with my husband. But worst, I am old or at least older. I don't want to sleep on hard surfaces and breathe in a lot of sand. So I decide to take mini adventures. My first one was to Panama with my beloved.

Stay tuned and you will hear the whole adventure in my next missive. If you are having trouble dealing with the fact you are going to live, do not worry! I am here for you. We'll work this out. I promise!

To contact River, click here.

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A River Runs Through It

River Huston

River Huston

River Huston is an award-winning poet, journalist, performer and activist. She travels through the United States speaking on issues related to sexuality, communication, overcoming challenges and change. She has been featured on Good Morning America, Showtime, Nightline, CNN and ABC Up To The Minute. River has written three books of poetry as well as The Goddess: A Guide to Feminine Wisdom and A Positive Life: Portraits of Women Living With HIV. She wrote and performed a one-woman show, Sex, Cellulite and Large Farm Equipment: One Girls Guide to Living and Dying off off Broadway and is currently working on a second show, The Dominatrix Next Door. For more information about River you can go to

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Articles by River:

Sex, Cellulite and Large Farm Equipment: One Girl's Guide to Living and Dying (October 15, 2008)

I Feel Good! Attaining Survival Through Illness (March/April 2008)

Goddess in a Muumuu: AIDS Changes Sexual Self-Image (December 1999)

A Positive Life: Portraits of Women Living With HIV (October 1999)

Interviews With River:

White Women and HIV (April 1999)

A Brief Disclaimer:

The opinions expressed by's bloggers are entirely their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of itself.