Learning to Live With HIV and Be OK

Tim Hinkhouse
Tim Hinkhouse
Selfie by Tim Hinkhouse

As you can see, I am still in prison. Two years ago on Aug. 31, I sent my clemency application to Oregon Governor Kate Brown, asking her for mercy. I had my friend put a petition on change.org asking people to sign it if they agreed that I had spent enough time in prison and urging the governor to let me out. I want to thank those of you who signed the petition and left your comments saying why you signed it. Hopefully this will make a difference?

I am impressed with the global movement to end HIV criminalization and the work that is being done. I recently found out about an organization called HIV Justice Worldwide. I want to encourage you to get signed up on their website to support this movement. 2018 is right around the corner, HIV criminalization is still going on, and your help is needed to stop it. Find out what you can do in your state to repeal this discrimination. Ask your local HIV agencies what to do.

Being in prison, I don't have direct access to the internet. I also can't join organizations fighting HIV discrimination or help stop abuses in the free world. Do you know what I can do in here? I can fight discrimination being imposed on others by those with no concern for basic human rights. My niche is dealing with HIV issues, but as an activist, I can stand up for anyone.

Having HIV for 27 years has taught me a lot about myself and other people who have their own health issues going on. This chronic illness has shown me how to be patient with myself and other people. I can live with HIV and be OK. For the past 15-20 years, I have told myself and others that life is 90% mental and 10% physical. So, if you face each day by telling yourself that "today will be a good day," it'll start you in the right frame of mind. So far, it has worked when I remember to tell myself this message.

As anyone knows, no matter what you tell yourself, life can become a crap-fest very quickly, right? Why panic and melt down, allowing the rest of your day to become a mental and emotional tragedy? Life is a constant barrage of things good and bad that want to shape our lives. I can make the choice to get into a funk about negativity and stay there. Why would I want to stay there? I want to shape my own life! This is where the 90% comes into play.

Hey!! You reading this! Turn it around already!? Make a bad situation good. Let's say that you find out that your viral load is detectable, and your T cells are down under 200. Go buy yourself an ice cream cone in the flavor that reminds you of a pleasant memory from your childhood. Remember being a kid? The world was so much bigger to us, and life wasn't complicated at all. Escape to that time, which will distract you from whatever is bothering you now.

Let me explain the 10% part of this philosophy. Remember to wash your hands several times a day. Cover your mouth when you cough to prevent other people from catching your cold or whatever is shooting out of your body. Get plenty of rest at night to prevent your body from being worn down. Your body repairs itself when you sleep. This helps us strengthen our immune systems and fight off opportunistic infections that can take us down.

Try to cut down on processed foods that we all eat. The chemicals and preservatives are not healthy for us and make our bodies work even harder to eliminate what we eat. Some people don't drink enough water either. No! It doesn't count that your coffee has water. We all need to drink plain water and lots of it.

Living with HIV is easy, really: It is all the day-to-day stuff that we deal with that frustrates us to the point where we forget to take care of ourselves. I want to encourage you to step away from reality for an amount of time that will put your mind at ease. Lactose intolerant? That's OK too. Buy yourself a treat that will bring you back to a time in your life when everything was OK. I have made it over 27 years with this illness, and God willing, I'll make it another 25-30 years following my own advice. I hope you live a long time too!

Life is too short not to take care of yourselves! Stay healthy, stay safe, and for goodness sakes ... go wash your hands now!

Read Tim's blog, HIV on The Inside.