A reader writes:
I tested positive for HIV a month ago. I suspected I had it, since I’ve had several inexplicable illnesses the last six months including ear infections, tonsillitis, random fevers, anal redness and most recently shingles – which finally got me to the clinic. I’m 37 and knew that I wouldn’t have shingles at this age unless my immune system was compromised by HIV. When I received the initial news, “your test came up reactive”, my head began swelling and felt like it would pop. The volunteer who tested me was so sweet, couldn’t have been nicer. He pummeled me with info and resources and really I just wanted to get out of there and breathe, but I appreciated it and accepted everything very matter of fact.
I’m cute. I live in West Hollywood and have been quite active sexually (though dismally unfortunate romantically). I’ve a few ideas how I might have gotten infected, but I’ve never consciously had unprotected sex, and always thought I was safe. Must have been a drunk one, I guess.
I just read your post on the documentary How to Survive a Plague. I’m old enough to remember the plague years quite well. I’ve known people who have died. I’m writing to you because I feel like apologizing. Getting infected now feels disrespectful to everyone that has worked so hard to fight this. I had all the information, I know the history, but I was reckless.
It’s been two weeks that I’ve been on Complera. One pill. Every morning. Forever. And I’ll be fine. I already feel better. A lot better. My issues are whom to tell, will I be rejected by other men, making sure I never lose insurance, getting the refills in time. You’ve experienced things I will never know, and thanks to you and all the soldiers of the plague years my HIV status is reduced a pill a day and a stigma, maybe.
I’m not ready to watch that documentary. Everything is a bit too fresh and I’m not so solid emotionally. I didn’t mean to do this to myself and never thought it was ok to be unsafe. I have always tried to be careful. Maybe an apology is appropriate, maybe not. It happened and I can’t change it now. I’m going to live. And I’m going to be fine. So I guess more importantly, I want to say thank you.