I’m not an advocate. I’m not an expert. I’m a guy who had his life change forever on June 9, 2014, when I found out that I was HIV positive.
Writing that fact down still seems weird. Partly because there are people in my life who don’t know, yet here I sit behind a computer screen anonymously telling my story in pretty deep detail.
I don’t remember much about the day I was diagnosed. It came as a complete shock to me. I never engaged in unsafe or risky behaviour, I was monogamous It didn’t make sense. It still doesn’t make sense. Regardless, those things don’t matter. What matters is that I am an HIV-positive person and my life changed that day.
Doctors have never been my friend. I was the kind of person that would only go to the doctor if it was absolutely necessary. Obviously it’s a bit more necessary now. But thanks to Toronto’s Hassle Free Clinic, I was connected with a family doctor who is also an HIV primary care specialist. I’m in good hands.
Having a therapist to talk to has been a great help as well. As I am sure you can imagine, my mental state is not exactly what it used to be. Some days are easy, others are not. But having a professional to talk to, and who helps me get a better understanding of how my mind works and techniques to manage stress and cope better has been a great help.
Of course the biggest help has been my best friend and her husband. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about telling her. I was scared I would lose her friendship, and since she’s like family to me, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice that by telling her what had happened. Thankfully, that thought lasted all of 20-minutes before I called her. She dropped everything and was by my side in an instant. She’s been there, alongside her husband, every step of the way. I’m grateful to them for their love and friendship.
If you’re as blessed as me to have people in your life like that, don’t be scared to tell them about your status. At the end of the day, they’re going to be there for you.
The journey from the day I was diagnosed continued to be a series of whirlwinds. Dealing with my former partner, going to doctor’s appointments, talking to my therapist… It all moved towards a day I despised more than anything… the day I had to have my blood drawn.
"It all went well until I found out that they wanted to take 20 vials of blood. Yes, you read that number right. 20. I made it to eight before I got queasy, nauseous and sweaty."
Let me be clear. Not only was I not a fan of going to the doctor, but I don’t like needles. I get queasy at the thought of them, and I actually kept delaying my blood work because I was so terrified of the process. I wasn’t scared of the pain – I don’t find needles hurt. I was scared of having blood taken, seeing the blood and all the “fun” things that come with that. Thankfully, my dear friend was able to come with me. It all went well until I found out that they wanted to take 20 vials of blood. Yes, you read that number right. 20. I made it to eight before I got queasy, nauseous and sweaty. There was also apparently a few minutes where I was completely out of it; I don’t remember that happening.
The good news is, those results came back pretty good. While I should have a viral load count in the millions, mine is 14K. My CD4 count is still good, which means that it’ll be monitored and treatment decisions don’t need to be made right away. My life goes on with some sense of normalcy.
I joke that I now have platinum level health coverage. I’m first in line to get vaccinations to keep myself healthy. I’m treated to my own private waiting room at the doctor’s office, to keep me away from the larger patient waiting room where I could get sick. I’m more grateful than ever before to live in Canada, where this disease won’t bankrupt me.
"It’s not an ideal situation to be in, but it is what it is. I wouldn’t say I’ve accepted it, but I’m learning to cope."
While having this disease is something that eats at my mind a lot, I know that it’s manageable. I know that it isn’t what it used to be: a death sentence. It’s not an ideal situation to be in, but it is what it is. I wouldn’t say I’ve accepted it, but I’m learning to cope.
As for what’s next? I want to tell my story. I want to hear from the community. This blog is a launching point for many new things, including a future podcast. I hope you’ll follow along.
My journey is just beginning. And I promise to share more of it with you.
About me: I am a 26-year old man, living in Toronto. In June of 2014, I tested positive for HIV. Seeing that in writing is still surreal to me.
My journey has just begun; while it is a journey I certainly did not envision taking, it’s one that I must now take nonetheless. While there’s lots of scientific and medical research information out there, I haven’t found much that chronicles the journey of a positive person. This blog aims to provide that kind of outlet.
I am choosing to write this blog anonymously. Not because I’m ashamed, and not because I think there would be repercussions of sharing my name. An anonymous story lets me be freer. I don’t have to worry about holding back. I hope that you will not find this blog has less meaning for that reason.
I am trying to handle this new life in the best way I know how: with a touch of humour. It isn’t easy to find laughter in this situation, but I am trying. I hope this blog will reflect a bit of that too, but it will also share the serious stories, fears and issues I face as I take this journey.
I’d love to hear from you. Commenting on posts is welcome, but you can also reach me on Twitter; I’m @PlusSideOfLife. I'm also on Facebook here.
This article previously appeared in Josh’s own blog The Plus Side of Life in October 2104 here. Watch for more.