April 18, 2011
When I was a child, I had a teacher at school who believed that her mission was to introduce us to God. As you can see, she was a Middle Eastern version of Camp Jesus! She made us believe that God will take care of us for the rest of our lives no matter what; and when difficult times come, it is just his way of slapping us on the wrist -- because we definitely did something bad ... He just wants us to be better.
This belief was inside me until I was diagnosed. At that moment, I felt betrayed by God. How could he do this? Even if he wanted to discipline me, why choose something that would leave permanent scars? My teacher said that he has a plan always; even when bad things happen to us, something good will happen later. We just need to wait and behave well, and he will take away his punishment. This time, I couldn't apply this logic to my situation. It was a total disaster that couldn't be justified or explained by any wisdom. How is he going to reverse this? It could not be undone this time.
Moving forward ... I had to visit a doctor, so I went to an HIV clinic and waited to meet the doctor I was assigned to. I was assigned to a doctor randomly. It was my first time to meet him; and Ooops! He was ... GAY. My interaction with gay people had always been sexual. I refused to have gay friends or to consider them anything but sexual objects ... and now the person who will be in charge of my life was gay? Was I going to let a gay man deal with my biggest tragedy? How could that be? My world was spinning already, and now it was spinning in pink. I could not conceive the idea that a gay person could be a good doctor -- maybe a good nurse, but a good doctor? No way.
The first question that I had for this doctor when it was time for me to ask questions: "How long will I live?" I wanted to know if I needed to fulfill my biggest dream in life and go tell my ex-landlord that she is a b#!$h before I die ... Yet this soft person turned into something so masculine and answered in the most assertive voice I'd heard in my whole entire funking life: "You will live INDEFINITELY." I guess my landlady can wait for more years!
Later, while talking to another doctor, I mentioned who my HIV doctor was. She said: "Oh, you are lucky; he is one of the best in the world in the field of HIV." I looked at the sky and shouted to God: "GET OUTTA HERE!" So he did intervene. He did put out his hand for me and decided to get me the best in the world. It's almost reversing what happened.
Look at it this way: I have the weakest virus among the family of viruses, and the best doctor in the world. Who is winning the game? Now God did his part ... the rest was up to both of us. I say both of us because I see this as the most important relationship in my life. Every poz person should also see it as a relationship -- because, unlike any other doctor, HIV doctors cannot help their patients without developing a strong bond with them -- sharing their life. If you have a problem sharing your life with your doctor then maybe it's time for you to go online for a "Doctor Hunt" ... and be ready to write in your "into" field: LTR.
Day after day, my relationship with Dr. A.C. grew to be strong and very unique -- unique enough that he can bend me down and shove his finger right up in my uhmm without me saying a word. Of course, doing this as part of my anal checkup makes it much easier. The approach of strong relationship with your doctor is the correct one -- and communication is key for both of us. I've learned through the times to ask him as many questions as possible -- but most importantly, to listen carefully to what he says, and to be able to object if I needed.
The best part in this is sharing with him the most difficult part of my illness: the stress. Whenever I get nervous about my T-cell numbers, the viral load or my health in general, I remember that this is not my job alone -- it's his job. He is the one who is in charge now of fighting this virus; I can only help him in this battle, but I see him as the leader. This idea cuts my stress level by 99% ... and I think all poz people should consider implementing it in one way or another.
However, in reality the relationship between poz people and doctors is not always so smooth and happy a story. Not all doctors are hands of God. Take for example the infamous List of Losers, which I dedicate to losers I've met in my life. On the top ten in that list is my dentist, who wouldn't miss an opportunity to tell his assistant: "Be extra-careful, he is H." What an idiot! I mean thinking that I wouldn't figure what the "H" stands for? The sad part is, he is gay himself, so you would imagine him being more understanding, but no ... why should he be? Who said that gay people are immune to stupidity? Well, I know that I will be looking for a new dentist for the coming year for sure.
This was not my worse experience with health care providers who treated me badly. In fact, this was one of the least humiliating. On one occasion the doctor in my school clinic started interrogating me like a police officer. When I kept saying no to every question he asked about me using drugs, entering jail or being promiscuous, his final question was yelling: "How did you get it [HIV] then?" I answered: "This is simply a virus that infects humans; and it just so happened that this time I was being a human!"