Saturday 5 June 2021

HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day 2021

Coming to terms

I probably have been exposed to it long before I took up the courage to find out for myself. For years, I would go for check-ups but ask not to be informed of the results of tests I did not go there for, that was the HIV test even though I was in a high-risk category.

Between a sense of invincibility and probably mind-numbing stupidity exacerbated with denial, I continued to escape the responsibility to know, and it was not until I was living in the Netherlands for over 2 years that I decided to face the music. I also presume at that time, I belonged to a cohort who if that knowledge was acquired became an uninsurable risk especially for life insurance.

Getting to know

Anyway, it was in early September 2002 that I went for a test that I was almost entirely sure would result in the news I was now ready to hear, that I had been infected and my life was about to change in ways I am not sure I was prepared for. The first result arrived on Friday, the 13th of September, but there was a second confirmatory test that needed to be conducted on my blood, which I received the next Friday, alone.

Returning home, I informed my pastor of the news I had already told him I was expecting and settled into contemplation about the life ahead of me. I took no immediate decisions and even avoided taking the next step to therapeutic address as prophylaxis against full-blown AIDS presenting as cancerous Kaposi’s sarcoma, 7 years later.

All in gratitude

On this day, the 5th of June, HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day, with the theme, AIDS at 40: Envisioning a Future We Never Imagined; I am in the 19th year of knowing with episodes that have so radically changed my life in ways I never have envisaged for planned for.

For all the stories I have to tell, I am grateful for the gift of life, the efficacy of the drugs that keeps wellbeing and holds disease at bay, the amazing friendships of those who have always stood with me, the grace of God and the indescribably amazing love I found in Brian.

To many more years of purposeful living, those we lost too early out of whose experiences have grown advances in medicine and life expectancy, the continued battle against stigma and in their memories, we hope never to forget each of us touched by this plague who are no less significant in the story of our humanity.

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