Now officially into my second year living with HIV I take time on World AIDS Day, the day I was told I was HIV positive, to reflect on still being here to see another year.
I will never forget noticing how much weight I lost, the thrush alongside my tongue that I scraped off due to denial, and that cough I ignored. I had always seen myself as invincible or perfect, and never able to be infected or at all affected by anything like HIV.
Finding the strength I decided to pick up blogging and soon after did my first YouTube video, titled "How I Found Out I Was HIV Positive," where I talked about my lack of knowledge and concern that I had for the virus. My feelings of perfection and misunderstanding as a young gay man at great risk to contracting HIV led me into an abusive relationship with a cheater. Also, I had no idea just how vulnerable I really was to a virus that affects so many individuals worldwide. At that time those things were the most I was ready to discuss.
Now two years later, with boundless therapy, discovering and loving who Patrick is, and focusing on my dreams and goals, I am no longer afraid of what others think. You see, the reality of my situation is that I was also taken advantage of against my will. That very well could be the reason I have HIV. What people who are blinded by stigma don't realize is that many infected with HIV are forced to have sex against their will: fooled by one's thought of a monogamous relationship; having unprotected sex to be able to survive on the streets after being kicked out of their home; or in an abusive relationship that has no room for negotiation of condom use.
While many people have unprotected consensual sex, many of those who did not have a choice are forgotten and called words from lips I would never kiss my own mother with. People who are sexually assaulted like me are forgotten about and placed under the description of "over-sexualized homosexual." I strive very hard to break that thought process. The reality of the situation is that it does not matter how one was infected with HIV but what they are doing to take control of the situation and better their lives.
The majority of individuals who reach out to me and are newly diagnosed with HIV fear so much of how the world will view them. I have spent energy and love showing these people who took the time to reach out to me after reading my blog and watching my videos to encourage and empower them to focus on themselves. We as individuals living with a currently lifelong condition first have to place all other outside influences and distractions aside and take the time to focus on healing ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Too many times have I found out that friends have gone off medication and have given up, simply due to listening to someone's conspiracy theory surrounding HIV and how it is not real. So many times have I received an email in the middle of the night from a parent who is desperate for help because their child has been either exposed or harassed over social media because their HIV status was leaked for one's sick enjoyment. We people living with HIV need to take the necessary time to focus on building back up our confidence and our armor that protects us from the stupidity of stigma so that we can be strong enough to show people that living with this virus does not define who we are or what we may have done in our pasts, but what we are doing to stay empowered, adherent to our medications, and reaching our goals of having an undetectable viral load and a fabulous quality of life.
On this World AIDS Day 2013, I acknowledge that work still has to be done with me. I will create new goals that will ensure that I will have continued success with having a suppressed viral load. Also, I will challenge myself by moving forward with my work to reduce stigma, educate those who simply need more knowledge, and encourage those affected to stay in the winning war against HIV.
Patrick is a gay African-American male who is living with HIV. Patrick was diagnosed Dec. 1, 2011 (World AIDS Day). Never the kind of individual to accept defeat, he has worked hard to spread awareness, education, resources and support to his community.
Send Patrick an email.
Read Patrick's blog ThePozLife.