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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

Conversations With My Virus

By Shana Cozad

March 3, 2011

Greetings and salutations friends!

I prefer to call you all friends, because I think the world these days has more than enough enemies all around and I do not wish to be among the hated or despised. Yet, there are those in this world who will hate me, simply because I breathe the air they breathe. I am a woman living with AIDS.

I suppose my story isn't so unnatural. Girl meets boy. Boy lies about his status. Girl is ignorant and doesn't know anything about boundaries or how to protect herself. Girl breaks up with boy after a one-year relationship. Girl finds out in break-up argument that boy is infected. Girl goes and gets tested. Girl is positive and has AIDS already.

That scenario could happen to anyone ... but it's what happened after my AIDS diagnosis that life really gets interesting for me.

This disease is simply remarkable at bringing out the raw and emotional and scariest aspects of Life, or Death, and often at the same time. Our culture doesn't prepare us how to deal with death very well, and as far as I am concerned, our culture has a haphazard way of preparing us for life anyway. Life is not all Brady Bunch and roses. And no one seems to really be able to be comfortable with the thought of our impending death, ever since our Egyptian ancestors.

So in my opinion, this disease has presented with loads of opportunities to look at. I liked the process of speaking directly to my body, me and my 11 T cells. I liked the part of sitting down one day with my virus, calling a truce, introducing myself properly and giving way to an understanding that this virus did not ask to invade my body; it simply travels from one body to the next according to the humans' level of "willingness to share." I was willing as an entry source, I suppose. I hated condoms. I did not like the awkwardness of putting them on. I did not like the way they smelled. And I did not like hearing guys complain that they couldn't "feel" me. So I believed in birth control pills. I also believed that guys did not lie about their status. And so my virus and I talked primarily about "me" and about what we needed to do next to cohabitate together.

But the interesting thing about conversations with my virus is that I never got hateful or evil conniving messages back. It just simply was a virus, and I had a beautiful young immune system with a not-so-strong genetic factor that allowed my virus to run rampant. My CD4 cells were like filet mignon to a starving person with a great palate and my, did my virus enjoy a feast of kings.

But I did not feel like my virus was out to get me, out to destroy me, bury me six feet under as quickly as it could. It just did what it did. It liked T cells. It liked making babies or "copies of itself" as the medical community calls it. Well, I like making babies too, so we had that in common, even though I technically only had one baby and it had millions. I began to see the irony of carrying a life within me that was itself producing more life, and which I would never "birth" and which the medical community was out to kill.

I understood that this virus and life had the potential to kill me. I know that often bacteria, viruses, fungi, molds, et cetera, are not our friends. I know that there are dozens of microbes in the world that our bodies are not able to cope with. But in the essence of understanding who I was living with, I needed to attempt to have a positive relationship, an understanding of who we both were, before I would have to be forced to defend my existence and wage an internal war against it. It was the honor stage, the bowing of our heads to each other, that is the basis of respect for all living things -- even our future enemies.

So in the beginning, this life process occurred internally within me, and I best accepted it as a sort of never-ending pregnancy. I held my belly. I rubbed my lymph nodes from time to time to feel close to it and be connected. I didn't get a sense it was either male or female, it was an "it." I would tell it when I was having a rough day and that I needed it to slow down. I would tell it when I was having a good day and that I thought we were both doing great. And it was along for the ride as I journeyed through my own fumbling existence as a young woman, living with AIDS, raising a baby boy.

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See Also
10 Things You Can Do to Enhance Your Emotional Well-Being
Depression and HIV
Feeling Good Again: Mental Healthcare Works!
More Personal Viewpoints on Coping With HIV

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Ms. Anderson (Orange County, CA.) Thu., Jul. 7, 2011 at 12:07 am UTC
Im not HIV positive, however, this essay/synops is amazing and inspiring.

Bravo and God Bless!
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Comment by: Brooke Davidoff (Seattle, WA) Thu., May. 12, 2011 at 7:00 pm UTC
Wow I never read you before, I love your opening and the way you VIEW this Disease. I'll have to keep checking for another blog from you.

I also think it's a lot of mind over matter. If you crawl in bed and cry thinking it's going to KILL you in the middle of the night, it will. If you accept it and move on with your life, it will hang out and follow you like a shadow.
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Comment by: Florence (Ksm, Kenya) Wed., Mar. 16, 2011 at 10:46 am UTC
I wonder why men cheat about their status(es)... On most cases men lie to women just before sex!! This is the most insensitive act any human being do ever esp. to another.
Why not let the other person escape HIV?
Shana, you are very beautiful and brave, we are in this together.

But i wonder where the HIV+ single men are... honest ones, some of us are searching seriously
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Comment by: bud hardy (New york, NY) Fri., Mar. 11, 2011 at 10:25 am UTC
Interesting story of one woman becoming one with their HIV and pregnancy. And for her ability to find another to make this happen.
I have always believed the reproductive aspect of being HIV+ is easier to accomplish for a woman than for a man. Regardless if she is positive and in a sero discorant or concordant HIV relationship.
HIV Positive heterosexual men have a much harder if not impossible task of trying to duplicate the scenario of wanting to reproduce. HIV positive women partners can and will be very selective about whom they do this with and if the pregnancy goes to term, do they allow the father to share in the raising. And HIV negative women would be risking their health status and the unborn fetus to conceive with an HIV positive man.
It is not a manís world on this issue of heterosexuality, HIV, and procreating. You might want to check out Guys and Girls in NYC as a source for finding other like bodied and minded people (
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Shana (Tulsa OK) Sun., Mar. 20, 2011 at 12:17 am UTC
Thank you so much for your comments. Yes, it is a deeply spiritual journey to relate this disease to the femenine process of carrying a life, and I wish there was a way that men could understand it too.
In the mean time, my HIV brothers will be in my prayers that spiritual clarity in coping and dealing with this disease will be readily accessible.
Thank you again.

Comment by: Lisa Lay (Tulsa, OK) Thu., Mar. 10, 2011 at 2:50 pm UTC
GREAT JOB! your message is a beautiful inspiration :) thank you so much for sharing!
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Comment by: Shana (Tulsa OK) Sun., Mar. 20, 2011 at 12:13 am UTC
Thank you Lisa!!! I'm so glad you read this!!!

Comment by: Alex V. (Sao Paulo, Brazil) Wed., Mar. 9, 2011 at 5:47 pm UTC
Thank you so much for sharing this with the community. This is such a good way of dealing with this challenge we both share. Congratulations!
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Shana (Tulsa OK) Sun., Mar. 20, 2011 at 12:18 am UTC
Thank you Alex!! Many blessings to you my friend!!!
And may prayers for "all of us," to be able to deal with this disease in a good way.

Comment by: Andrew Nichols (Columbus, MS) Mon., Mar. 7, 2011 at 9:35 pm UTC
Shana, I found ur writing to be very poetic as well as far reaching. Thank you for taking the time to share w/us. I feel blessed by taking the time to read this.
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Shana (Tulsa,OK) Sun., Mar. 20, 2011 at 12:21 am UTC
Thank you!!!
It is, and always will be a beautiful process to be involved in being a modern day Story-Teller.
It is my honor to share.

Comment by: Andrea de Lange (Los Angeles, CA) Mon., Mar. 7, 2011 at 3:01 pm UTC
Shana, I love your humor, wit, style and beauty! I think your attitude speaks volumes as to why you are doing so well, and are such an inspiration to others. It has been a great honor to be your friend for about 15 years now! You rock!!
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Shana (Tulsa, OK) Sun., Mar. 20, 2011 at 12:25 am UTC
Thank you Andrea!!! Much love to you, honey!!! I am so thrilled you read this. We have been through one one heck of a journery, my friend! And we will see it through to the other side together.

Comment by: Teddye Compton (OKC, OK) Mon., Mar. 7, 2011 at 11:37 am UTC
Shana, I believe you are one of the Bravest People I know on this Earth Plane. Your positive attitude far surpasses any of the HIV/AIDS Community.
You present yourself with dignity, compassion and are so willing to educate and reach out to All, no matter what their lifestyles maybe.
AHO!! Thank you,
Shana Cozad for being the loving Wife, Mother,Sister and Friend to so many.
Teddye Compton
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Comment by: Larry Estrada (Great Bend, Ks) Fri., Mar. 4, 2011 at 10:10 pm UTC
I am so proud of you sis this was fantastic to read I love you so much Shana I cant wait to see you again
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Mother Earth

Shana Cozad

Shana Cozad

Shana Cozad is a full-blooded Native American enrolled with The Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma. She is also of Caddo, Delaware and a smidgen of French decent. Shana has been a noted, recognized public speaker, HIV/AIDS prevention educator and CTR counselor since 1994. Shana has spoken at numerous schools, universities, AIDS memorials, AIDS Walks and World AIDS Day events. Highlights include POZ Magazine, Keynoting for the 3rd Annual Circle of Harmony Conference and (Keynote for) the Mississippi State Department of Health HIV/STD Service DIS Conference and Update. Shana's story is also among the women's voices in River Huston's book A Positive Life. Shana is currently married to a wonderful lawyer and together they are raising three children in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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