I’m HIV positive and I’m not just surviving – I’m thriving

If someone has a problem with HIV, it’s not about me, it’s about them (Image: James Hawkridge)

I am proud to be HIV positive.

Last year I was diagnosed with HIV around this time, at the age of 25. At first my diagnosis was almost too difficult to handle. I wrote suicide notes and planned my funeral through my notes app, fueled by my belief that I wasn’t strong enough to deal with HIV that I deserved this.

I never thought I’d be comfortable enough to tell people that I was positive, but I not only accepted my situation, I accepted it.

That wasn’t always easy and took a whole year.

I was the boy who hid from his family for months and refused to come home because I was afraid I wouldn’t keep my diagnosis a secret and be judged (if I really knew I wouldn’t be) .

I served as that chaotic, complicated raver Who would go to camp every week just to pop a pill or two and forget about reality for a few hours – a habit that would ultimately lead me to love and show me how much more life was there than constant, and dangerous drug use.

I was the new boyfriend, sat scared and scared at the end of the bed and knew that I had to tell the man I’ve been seeing for two weeks that I am HIV positive because we are both gay men and PrEP, the one Preventing HIV infection only appeared organically in the conversation.

And I am who I am now: the man who shared his story publicly, with family, friends and the internet. A man who bears his heart and a rather ironic seven year old ‘+’ tattoo on his sleeve (which I got on a whim one day because I was in bad mental health and wanted a physical reminder that I had all the positivity I needed inside) and talked about the path he was on and how daily life with HIV affects him.

The fact is, it is not at this point.

I now have my Badge of Honor status. It is my super suit. It’s not about the carefree nature in which I got it (I slept unprotected with someone once and waited a few days before getting an STI test … weren’t we all there?), But like me, for their presence have reacted in my life.

I’m undetectable, which means that as long as I take my daily medication, there is no risk of passing the virus on to anyone, even through unprotected sex. It’s not like those Dettol ads, which have a 0.01% probability. There is effectively a 0% chance.

I now have my Badge of Honor status. It’s my super suit (Image: James Hawkridge)

I have used HIV as a motivation to find out and understand more about my body and to better keep track of my sexual health.

In early June, I was moved by stories of the support for LGBT + and the community during Pride Month. So I created a PDF that summarizes my journey and understanding of HIV, along with verified facts from trusted sources, and dumped it on my social media channels waiting for news to flow in. I’m not sure where the courage came from, but I knew I was ready to tell my story.

It seemed like an easier way to just drop a pamphlet and give people the time to read it instead of having a hundred same conversations with everyone close or half close in my life.

The support I received has been overwhelming. I have also cried with happiness and feel so accepted in my circles, which I once feared I could never say.

The most surprising outcry of strength came from close friends; Guys who realized much earlier than me that being diagnosed with HIV wasn’t what I thought it was. They all immediately got used to my new reality, and although their educational knowledge was limited, they proved to be pillars of strength to draw on and pledged to be so open and willing to educate themselves as they would my experience could understand better.

My training on this matter was very, very limited until I did some research for myself last year, and I think we need to look further into this, especially for gay people. I assumed that HIV would never get anywhere near my circles since it emerged in the 1980s.

The truth is it can be anywhere. You can’t say that.

I’m undetectable, which means that as long as I’m taking my daily medication, there is no risk of passing the virus on to anyone, even through unprotected sex

As long as you take your medication as needed and follow your doctor’s advice while you do your exams to monitor your diagnosis, you can stay healthy. It is so important to stick to your medication.

My physical health has never been better. I go to the gym a lot, eat well, and I always try to keep my head space balanced despite a clinical depression I’m battling.

The biggest impact HIV has on me now is mental.

As I caught my reflection when I was just being diagnosed and not yet virally suppressed, I imagined the virus running through my body, floating in my veins and under my skin.

There was one night in the north that year when I was mocked by someone who was one of my best friends. shouted a series of awful names and spat on my face repeatedly when I was told I should have killed myself as soon as I found out.

This problem was a little tougher to deal with and I think I may need therapy to be honest.

However, I do know that a lot of the backlash I have received that is truthfully from only one person is due to fear or deformity.

I’ve used HIV as a motivation to find out and understand more about my body and to better keep track of my sexual health (Image: James Hawkridge).

I know that as soon as I told my mom some facts, her tears stopped and she has since been my greatest lawyer, proudly informing people of my diagnosis and using her influence in the pharmaceutical industry to educate others as well.

I know that my little brother, who is only 17 years old, used me as a role model for his friends to open a dialogue about their own sexual health that I never dreamed of having the confidence he had in his Age.

I know that people who follow my social media channels tell me that they are inspired by my journey, and they share my resources with others who can benefit from not having to throw a wrench into the rest of your life from an unfortunate event .

HIV came to me as a demon and has since gone hand in hand with me as a mentor, guide and teacher for me and many others in my life.

If someone has a problem with HIV, it’s not about me, it’s about them. If someone doesn’t want to sleep with me because of my status, I won’t argue. I’m just saying that I am ready to have an open discourse when you are ready.

I had a first date last night and he was sitting across from me in the cabin as we both sipped some pretty disgusting cocktails. He told me he was unfamiliar with the details but was looking forward to learning and understanding them from my perspective.

Reader, I brought him home later.

I don’t just survive with HIV. I thrive with HIV.

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