Angel Stetson
Angel Stetson

Hello, it's been a minute since I wrote a blog. I am reminded of Long-Term Survivor Day as it approaches. I was diagnosed in 1997. I suspected until yesterday I was given this condition through a sex partner as a teenager. My first boyfriend died of AIDS-related complications in 1994. He received several blood transfusions as a kid.

Yesterday while in my hometown, I saw a stranger who remembered me as a person she knew through a common friends. One of which was my husband. I learned today he was sleeping with men while sleeping with me. I love surprises, not. I always wondered how a man who claimed to love us so much would desert his wife and child? Things may get clearer as I piece together my memories and deep down I knew this was happening, but who asks their husband if he is sleeping with the dope man. I never saw him again. Oh Retraction. I saw him briefly to divorce him after 13 years.

He is always angry and never wants to see me or my daughter. I carry a certain burden around for being in denial until 2006 when I could no longer deny I was living with HIV as I was about to reach an AIDS diagnosis. Luckily, I was two points above that status when I started my ARV drugs. Within 1 month I was undetectable and have been since, but for the grace of God. I am not mad at anyone for my status as I should have been using common sense and universal precautions especially when drinking and drugs were involved, so I put this condition on me. I was a CNA working with people dying from AIDS-related complications. I really was educated, so why didn't I protect myself in all areas of my life.

Today I thrive living with HIV. I have adjusted to a new way of life as I care for my human condition. I still feel sad that so many have lost their lives. People I loved were dying, yet I sat in denial hoping this would go away or kill me quickly. To see my friends suffer this incredible journey (mostly alone, except for me by their side), I made a point to be there with them, to cheer up, to cry, to just sit. I never told a soul I tested positive. I never let the thoughts of what was going on around me ruin me, oh but I did. I dove head deep into a life of drugs and alcohol all the while being the girl who could light up a room and bring comfort to those hurting. This is really a tough write-up as today I'm clean and so many new and old untouched emotions are welling up in my mind.

I share this to ask some very much needed questions to myself. How did you get to live? Has he been living with the virus alone all this time? I am public about my status, so am I hurting him more by not asking him if he is okay? He is watching us live yet we can never actually see the man. Why, Who and Where are not important today. The fact is I have HIV in my body, and I must take my medicine everyday to stay healthy. What an opportunity I have that others were not given.

Now, with U=U, life is being renewed as I call it. A chance to fall in love and science to back me up that I can be in a healthy sexually active relationship.

Fast forward: I have been in a sero-discordant relationship for 6 years, and yes, we have condomless sex if we want. I am happy to be alive and thriving. I struggle with life sometimes. I do know HIV is not going to kill me as long as I adhere to my regimen.

I have an amazing support system of like-minded people through The Well Project and PWN-USA. There are so many reasons to be alive today. Stay beautiful and enjoy your journey . #Togetherwecan

[Note from TheBody: This article was originally published by PWN-USA on June 1, 2018. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]