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Three Months and Thirteen Days

November 15, 2010

For our World AIDS Day 2010 section, we wanted to capture the diversity of the AIDS community. So, we reached out to people across the world -- mostly those who have never written for us before -- and asked them to guest blog. These columns are written by people who are living with HIV, have been affected by HIV, or work in the field.

Adam Chang

Adam Chang

I am not an alcoholic nor have I ever done drugs. At 24-years-old, I am a law student and eldest of seven children. I am the first to graduate from college in my immediate and extended family and the first to enter graduate school. My parents are first generation immigrants from Asia and they have done their best to provide for me.

I am also HIV-positive.

Three months and 13 days is not the amount of time I have been sober; it is the length of time I have been with my current partner -- my first real relationship after a series of failed attempts at dating since being diagnosed as HIV-positive in February 2009.

Spring 2010, a man I dated said to me, "The government should put everyone with HIV on an island and blow it up." At the time, he was not aware that I was HIV-positive. When two months had finally passed, I was emotionally prepared to reveal my status to him. He was the third man I have dated and revealed my status to. I generally disclose my status from week one, but I chose to wait because I was tired of scaring away prospective suitors. But the reaction was still the same -- shock and anger. I was accused of tricking him into liking me. Through intense kissing and even oral sex, my partners found any reason to justify having contracted HIV from me. "I accidentally used your toothbrush and my gums were bloody. I kissed you after I brushed my teeth." My status suddenly became their very own personal epidemic.

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These relationships did not last -- reasons given include, "You're a nice guy, but I can't deal with the stress," to "I don't think I'm ready for people to know I'm dating someone who's HIV-positive." After months of testing, no one I have encountered is HIV-positive. The fact is, I know my status and I know how to practice safe sex. I take my medicine every day, and this helps keep my viral load "undetectable." I cannot transmit HIV absent a direct exposure to someone else's blood stream. Still, I have no other solution of combating HIV stigma in the world of love.

I met my current boyfriend in person on July 1, 2010 after brief conversations online for a little over 2 months. To be frank, I told him I was HIV-positive the very next day fully expecting him to run for the hills. Instead, he said, "Thank you for feeling comfortable enough to tell me. It does not change the fact that I really like you. I can't blame you for something that happened in the past." Was this guy for real? It turns out that he was and still is.

In the past three months, I have met most of his family. They are the most kind-hearted and funny group of people I have ever met. We've gone camping, celebrated birthdays, held potlucks and barbeques, and just last week saw "Cirque du Soleil."

It gets better.

We are young, healthy, and if we choose to be, can also be happy. Life is not over because we are HIV-positive. Life goes on, whether we want it to or not. It is up to us to seize each moment and opportunity. We should always open ourselves to the possibilities of love, and if the person is understanding, the relationship can be immensely rewarding. To "my love" -- Happy three months and thirteen days.

Adam Chang is from Honolulu, Hawaii, and was diagnosed 2009.


This article was provided by TheBody.com.


Reader Comments:

Comment by: Jesse (Seattle) Sat., Dec. 4, 2010 at 7:33 pm EST
I am happy that you have found someone wonderful who stays by yourside, I hope the three months become a lifetime of happiness for you.
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Comment by: Sam (Lafayette, CA) Mon., Nov. 22, 2010 at 5:24 pm EST
HIV is not a big deal anymore, just keep track and be above it.

I remember meeting you in another non-profit company that helps new immigrants like me. I commend your great work ethics.

Even with HIV, you can be the person you want to be! All the best!
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Adam Chang (Honolulu, HI) Wed., Nov. 24, 2010 at 3:31 am EST
Hi Sam,

You're referring to Upwardly Global in San Francisco! It's a small world after all. Thank you for the compliment and taking the time to respond to this personal blog.

Warm Regards,

Adam


Comment by: Adam Chang (Honolulu, HI) Sat., Nov. 20, 2010 at 10:12 pm EST
Hi J,

Your story breaks my heart. I think all of us living with HIV are constantly anticipating whether or not the next time we are sick - it will be a sickness we simply don't recover from. At my young age, I sometimes wonder if I will even make it to 40 or 50 years old. It's difficult to imagine, but I'm hopeful. I hope that you are able to find friends in support groups (I know that they are not for everyone). Still, if you have the energy, volunteering, in my own experience, has always led to great networking opportunities. I would not have the support that I have now were it not for my contribution to my community. For me, I find that giving my time to something greater than myself is very rewarding. I just can't allow myself to get caught up in my status. So the saying goes ... "I have HIV - HIV does not have me." I think that there are multiple perspectives for any situation, and it is important for people to be aware of your story as well. Thank you for sharing.

Aloha,

Adam
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Comment by: j (Omaha, NE) Thu., Nov. 18, 2010 at 2:30 am EST
I am Happy for you and you are one of the lucky (and handsome) ones. Wish I could say the same..
This is my story..

I am a 50 year old man living with HIV(11 years) and my partner also has HIV(21 years). We are both distant from our families, suffer from addiction and are just living to exist. I just found out I have skin cancer, among many other aliments that have left me disabled and unable to work or even function many days. I/we have no support system and only visit our doctors to discuss issues(we we both don't fully disclose). Sometimes I feel like I'm so alone, even though I have a large family and adult children. sometimes I just want to give up. I just feel so lousy all the time. I get depressed and just feel like The stigma attached to HIV has made me a total outcast, more than I was before HIV. I am on meds and my numbers are good, but I still just wonder if it's worth going on some days. We also have no friends to do anything with as we live in a small town, and are shunned by everyone. I think many of us just exist. with nobody that really cares. THAT is the reality of HIV/AIDS in America. Just my story.
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Comment by: John B. (Austin, Texas) Mon., Nov. 15, 2010 at 6:13 pm EST
Keep my info in your back pocket just in case 3 months and thirteen days doesn't work out...you're amazing and deserve to feel that way every night and every day! Best of luck!
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