Oh my, God, she has HIV!
This was my personal introduction to the world of HIV/AIDS. I was sitting in this cold sterilize medical exam room and looking out the window as the rain was falling; waiting for my doctor when I heard his voice announcing my status.
Just like that rain falling on the windowsill; my whole life was falling before me. As each drop pinging on the window; it was a pounding ache in my spirit. I can almost remember how I was feeling -- lost, ashamed and scared.
I was laying there thinking; who heard those words other than me, who heard what I did not wish upon anyone.
As waited for the doctor to come in, I started to visualize everyone that was in the lobby that could have heard this exchange between the physician and the nurse.
I still had not seen the nurse -- it seems like time had come to a complete halt -- but I knew that the doctor was outside the door. I heard his voice as he told the patient in the next exam room goodbye. I heard his footsteps as he walked toward my exam room and removed my chart from the slot. I heard his voice. As if he "shouted" from the mountain top the awful truth that I was HIV positive.
Now, I was just sitting there waiting for him to enter the room; where could he be? Where is the nurse, she always the first to come in, greeting me with her charming smile? Taking my vitals; telling me everything that's going on with her family, I knew all about her kids, dogs and cats, she's my friend, so I had thought.
I had been coming to this medical office for years. Now no one has entered into this cold, sterile room; I was left alone with my thoughts, and they were not calming. I kept thinking, what if he's was commenting on another patient medical chart, someone else who was facing this awful virus? I was laying there praying that the results would be wrong.
Heck, this is small town USA, this is not my disease. Please do not misunderstand me, I wasn't naïve, I had a few close friends in SoCal that had died from this illness in the early 80's. I was well aware of this virus, but me, no way. This was "a gay thing" or someone who participated in risky behaviors. Not me! I was a professional African-American female. What went wrong?
Two weeks before, my doctor assured me that I did not have anything to fear. Based on the information regarding who was at risk, I didn't need to concern myself with taking a test. As a matter of fact, he didn't see the need for me to be tested. I remember him telling me that I was just overly concern.
Well, where was he now? Why wasn't he here to reaffirm those feeling? What's going on, this is not how my life was supposed to end. Not in this cold sterilizes medical exam room, empty and alone.
I remember asking God if he could hear my pain, and if so, what was I supposed to do now. As I laid there in that cold room, listening to the rain. I was feeling so hurt. I don't believe I even shed a tear. I was in too much pain to feel. I didn't realize it then, but I was just one step away from what would I come to refer: my journey of a lifetime.
I was drifting off somewhere in my little world when I heard the exam room door open.
Finally, the doctor walked into the exam room; he didn't look at me, directly; I noticed that he, not his usually cheerful self. He was very dry and somewhat withdrawn. He started to tell me something, but I had disconnected from his conversation. I was furious with him and started berating him for announcing to everyone else my status, before telling me.
I was a little unhinged: I was lost in my pain. I can recall the nurse and the receptions coming into the office to check on the doctor. I realize then that I must had been rather loud. However, I noticed something else -- neither one of them looked me in my eyes. After checking on the doctor well-being and he assured them he was alright, they left, not even a hello or goodbye.
My primary care doctor informed me that I have tested positive for HIV. He stated that additional testing would be needed to know the extent of my condition.
I remember following up with the doctor two weeks later; he informed me that I was not only HIV positive but, I met the criteria for the CDC diagnosis of AIDS. My T-cell's were below 80. He informed me that he was referring me to an HIV specialist, but I should go home and get my house in order.
As I was sitting there listening to this doctor, it dawned on me -- God did not tell me this morning that I was going to die, and I was not going to let this doctor speak those words into my spirit.
So here I was all dressed up and nowhere to go. My gynecologist informed me that he could no longer treat me due to the excessive bleeding and my HIV status; he feared for the well-being of his other patient. So now, I had no doctor and limited resource as to where I could go for treatment.
This was my introduction to the world of HIV/AIDS.
People were looking and treating you differently during that era. I know now; not everyone was treated that way. But, remember this was Small Town, USA in the mid-90. People were treating you with sterilized glove and bleach; do not touch, only if needed.
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.