On Denial After an HIV Diagnosis

Part of the Series Day One With HIV

On Denial After an HIV Diagnosis

It was September 1986. I just moved back from NYC to start a new job with the state of NY. My car insurance was purchased from a friend of mine who suggested I get a life insurance policy. It was so convenient; they came right to the office. Not long after, I received the dreaded letter from the insurance company: I was not eligible due to health reasons. Please call your doctor and arrange to have an HIV test!

Well, that was my confirmation! I was positive! My then doctor responded, "Well, you aren't the only one!"

I knew full well I was positive all along, from the early 80s. Two of my former partners were quite ill and I wondered how it could not have affected me. I had essentially stopped having sex after their diagnosis. Then two years later, safe sex. So, from this, I determined it had to be the early 80s.

This led to drug and alcohol abuse. I was assuming I was going to be dead shortly.

Well, time went on and I was in deep denial until the day I developed pneumonia and was admitted into the hospital with a T-cell count of 3 and a viral load of over 250,000. Once again, I thought this was it. My time had come. This was the year 2000. I thought, "Hey, not bad, I had a few good years." This is where I found one of the best HIV doctors you can imagine. He put me on something that nearly killed me and immediately took me off. I then went on a combo for a few years, then to Sustiva [efavirenz, Stocrin]. Once a day, how could you beat it?

So now it is 2014 and I have been undetectable for 14 years! My T cells are in the 900s and my ratios are through the roof! So, looking back, what a fool I was! All those wasted years of drugs and alcohol. I have to ask myself, "Why?" But I must say, if I had gotten on AZT [Retrovir, zidovudine], I would probably be dead today.

I have been a very lucky man. I am still living and trying to live well. I still socialize, but never have I forgotten to take my meds. For some reason, I am alive. I don't know why; my story must not be finished yet. We will just have to see.

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 editor@thebody.com. 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.