Day One With HIV: "Not Leukemia, but Something Far More Shocking"
The day was a crisp, middle-Tennessee, autumn day.
I was at work at a local manufacturing company, in my small hometown of less than 1,000 residents. The week prior, I had traveled into Nashville, Tenn., to see an oncologist, because it was thought I may have leukemia, because of the symptoms I had been having for the past several weeks. It turned out it was not leukemia, but something far more shocking.
The day was Thursday, October 24, 1991. The time was 11:07 a.m. My supervisor called me into the office, telling me that I had a phone call. The oncologist I had seen the week prior told me right away that the HIV test I'd had in his office had come back positive, I had five to seven years to live, and, he suggested I find a doctor who would treat me.
The room began to spin in slow motion. I hung up the phone, not fully aware of the news I had just been given, but aware enough to know that I felt my life as I knew it was over. In my hometown, I knew no one who was living with HIV, nor, did I want my local doctor, or anyone else for that matter, to find out that I had contracted HIV. I spent the rest of the day in somewhat of a daze. I did not leave work, but rather I finished the day at work somehow, without completely breaking down.
I left work, contemplating suicide, for I felt I could never face my family, or have them dealing with what I had allowed to happen to me. Little did I know that I would become the local face of HIV/AIDS.
I did remember a name of a lady, an HIV/AIDS counselor, in a town about 25 miles away from where I lived. I got in contact with her, and, it was with her help, and that of an HIV/AIDS support group, that I began to see that I was not alone, in learning to live with my new "normal."
Flash forward three years from that October 1991 day. It was with the passing of time, and with the help of others, that I began to understand my place in the world. After the deaths of several friends, with my "Circle of Friends" HIV/AIDS support group, and one friend in particular, I made a decision I thought I would never make. On World AIDS Day 1994, I was a featured speaker at a local World AIDS Day Education Awareness event. It was on that day that I "went public" with my positive status. My story and picture was front page news in the local newspaper; I was on TV and radio, telling the world my story of learning to live with HIV disease, and that I was going to use an unfortunate situation and turn it into something positive (pun intended).
Today, June 2013, at age 51, I live openly with my HIV/AIDS status, and still speak to various groups and organizations about life with HIV/AIDS in small-town USA. It has been and continues to be a blessing in disguise. Never one to be any kind of speaker, and actually a quiet, shy youngster, I have grown into my own skin. I am my own voice, and a voice for all those who passed away over the years.
It was that day one, in 1991, that set me on the journey that continues today. Twenty-three plus years of day one!
Harold Scott is from Gainesboro, Tenn., and now lives in Lebanon, Tenn.
Want to share your own "Day One With HIV" story of finding out your diagnosis? Write out your story (1,000 words or fewer, please!), or film a YouTube video, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the coming months, we'll be posting readers' "Day One" stories here in our HIV/AIDS Resource Center for the Newly Diagnosed. Read other stories in this series.