Sometimes I Forget I Have HIV, and Sometimes I Feel Panic, Sadness or Loneliness
Part of the Series Day One With HIV
I kind of knew. I kind of felt it inside me when the virus came into me. I felt different from that night on. I had just had a risky sexual encounter and, by the way she/he looked at me, I knew her/his intentions.
It was around a year and a half ago. I had no idea there was a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP) choice. So, instead, I began to build up a nightmare of a life, fearing I'd gotten infected. I'm from Mexico, and here nobody talks about it, and nobody wants to know about it, like me.
In my head I kind of knew, and fear, I think, made me weak. I began being sick all the time: diarrhea, throat infections, stomach infections, skin infections, nail infections, shingles and gut inflammation, big time.
My family would make comments like: Man, you are always sick. And I was.
I was going to doctors all the time and injecting antibiotics all the time and feeling scared all the time -- horrible. I became so sick and had so many things at the same time that I had to leave my place to live at home with my mom and dad.
They took me to see doctors, alternative doctors, even shamans. By this time, I think I had "dengue" or "Zika," which is kind of normal in the weather I live in. My symptoms were headaches, bone aches, flu, some fever and feeling absolutely super tired, scared and now depressed. I thought I was going to die.
And I think what caused me more trouble was my family.
While lying in bed, I started to watch videos about HIV, and I found out something I didn't know. I found out that having HIV didn't mean death and that, in fact, there's treatment that allows you to live almost a normal, regular life. And then, there's Magic Johnson and other clear examples.
So, finally, after one year of suffering, feeling sick, fearing and now having panic attacks, I had nowhere else to go but to get tested.
It took me a week to go get the results, and when I got them, from the look of the person at the clinic I knew. I walked with the envelope still sealed and looked for shade in a park. I opened it, and, yes, I was positive. Instead of feeling shocked, I kind of felt relieved, because now I knew what I had.
I got better from "Zika" or "dengue" and spoke to some doctor who told me that I had to decide where I wanted to sign up for treatment. So, I decide to go back home and say goodbye to mama and papa without telling anything to anybody, thanks to the advice of the doctor.
Now I'm home. I called for help, and they told me the same thing: not to tell anybody, that it was not necessary -- at least not until I was more stable and taking already treatment.
I'm grateful that in Mexico the treatment is free. After some exams, I was given Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC).
Christmas came and the clinic was on vacation, I think, and my tests for CD4 and viral load counts are on January 23rd. By then, I will be in my second month on treatment.
I feel weird, different. I feel the medication in me, and to be honest, I feel better in some ways, like all the sicknesses I had experienced for a year are kind of gone. But still, now I have to deal with the side effects from the pill.
I have to say that every day I feel something new. Sometimes my bones or my chest hurt, or I feel headaches or nausea or an itch or sad or nothing. I'm learning to deal with it.
Sometimes I forget my condition, and sometimes I can't believe it, and sometimes I feel panic again or sadness or loneliness.
I'm going to a psychologist, and my doctor is friendly. I have only told my girlfriend about it, and her reaction was totally unexpected. I found out she has a lot of friends with HIV, and she was not shocked at all!
Well that's my story so far. It's been a month since "the day." Saludos and gracias.
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 email@example.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.