Friday 20 September 2019

There is a whole new life after a HIV diagnosis

Facing up to the news
17 years ago, I had taken the day off, it was a Friday too as I went to the sexual health clinic to get a confirmation of what was to become a new chapter in my life.
The week before, after years of having check-ups but somewhat fearful of what the results might be, I had been persuaded to take tests but had a growing disinterest in what might be at the end of it. The indicators had shown there might be antibodies, but they needed to confirm with a further battery of tests.
The usual advice is to visit with a friend, I didn’t, but I had told my pastor that I was having a blood test and whatever the outcome was, that was the outcome as far as the science could say it was.
In the calm of the news
That morning, I was called into the examination room and informed that the tests were conclusive, I was HIV+. I was neither shocked nor overwhelmed, it was news I was ready for as I maintained my demeanour.
Some people might just learn of this, I have lived with this for definitely more than 17 years, it is no time to cry for me, pity me or worse, that time has long passed.
The nurse who gave me the news somewhat became quite upset for me and began to cry, here I was, the recipient of life-changing news comforting the person who had delivered this news to many others long before I was known to them, and he probably had since learnt of the death of some who had succumbed to the complications brought on by HIV and culminating in AIDS and consequently death.
Give me nothing but hope
In the therapy session that followed, we began to discuss options ahead of me, whether it was time to consider treatment, who should take on my primary care and what the further prognosis might be. I was given a pamphlet that talked about what my emotions might be on learning I was HIV+. Anger, despair, disappointment, lowered self-esteem, depression, suicidal thoughts, regret, and fatalism were some of the issues I was supposed to be undergoing.
As I leafed through the pamphlet, I said to the nurse, there is nothing in here that appears to be useful to a person who has just received news like the one I have just been told. What about hope, I asked. Hope is essential for me to know that there was a tomorrow after today, that whatever the future holds I would not suddenly succumb and expire. More importantly, if this was the first day of the rest of my life, then I needed more than the negative emotions I had just read about.
He nodded when I said, this is not going to kill me without a fight. Then I left for my home, called my pastor and told him the news before settling into my thoughts about what my future holds.
The life so amazing
On the pamphlet itself, I wrote, HOPE, BELIEVE, LIVE, I have held onto the pamphlet since then. In the ensuing 17 years, I embarked on a post-graduate programme, travelled to places I only ever dreamt of had progressive advancements in my career that is ongoing for 31 years in October, survived cancer, fallen in love and I live as someone living rather than someone dying.
I have been blessed with friendships, good fortune, health, means and opportunities not just for myself but also to encourage others who faced despair out of which came a future they could never have dreamt possible. HIV did not become a death sentence, it became the impetus to make something of my life, add importance, significance, and relevance.
We are miracles in gratitude
I am full of gratitude for the life I have had the pleasure to live and for whatever time I still have, I hope to continually show that HIV is not the end of life, but the beginning of a new future.
Advances in medicine have given many of more than a new lease of life, the virus when we are under medical supervision and adherent to our medications becomes undetectable that first, our immune systems are not further weakened for opportunistic infections and then we carry literally no risk of passing on the virus.
In some ways, we are miracles of science and resilience, we have become stories of hope against adversity and when our time comes, we can be assured that we have lived fulfilled lives. We are not defined by HIV, we are just everyone else, at one time afflicted and never defeated.

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