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.
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.
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.