The HIV Positive Man

How did you feel after you realized you might be HIV positive?
In 2005, I realized that I might be HIV positive. I had become very ill and lost a lot of weight. I started worrying about HIV. I was scared of finding out the truth. I thought that I would kill myself if I was positive. I thought that it would be better not to know, and every time I heard 'HIV' I felt scared. I did not want to hear anything. I thought that if I was HIV positive, it would be the end of my life. I did not trust any of the counseling services, since I heard many stories of confidentiality which was breached. I did not have anyone to talk to about this, and my life was hell.
When did you decide to be tested?
In July 2006, I could not keep it to myself, and I confided in my best friend who knows everything about me. He urged me to do the test, but I could not bring myself to do it. Another friend who I had recently met, seemed to me to be very considerate, and confidential and opposed to discrimination. I told him how scared I was and I started to cry. He told me that if I did not go to do the test, he would stop talking to me and also tell this other guy I had a crush on. I believed that he was crazy enough to do that. He also said he was going to go with me to do the test. He and I went to do the test. My best friend also wanted to go with me, but he had to work.
How was the test like?
The counselor told me about the test, and what was involved. I gave the blood. I did not feel I wanted my friend with me for the results. The counselor asked me about the girl I had. I said nothing. She subsequently said she did not care about my sexual orientation, but I did not feel I wanted to say anything. She interpreted the results for me, and asked me if I had anything to say. The tears came to my eyes, but I was determined not to cry. I had to leave and go back to work, and I put on a brave face and went out. That afternoon, I told my friend the results. It was difficult. He found out that Mercy Hospital was good to go for the check up. That night I went home and cried until I slept.
What happened next?
After a few days, I made the appointment to see the doctor and counselor at Mercy Hospital. I was scared of going to the GUM Clinic which seemed too public. I realized that people would see me going into Mercy, but that my health was important and I did not care what they would think. The HIV ads now made sense to me, maybe too late. I decided to read everything I could find on the Internet and everywhere else. The doctor asked my whether I had sex with men. I thought it was important to tell him the truth, and face any discrimination. There was none. They explained the treatment to me, and took the tests. I went back after a month to start the ARV treatment. There were many tablets. I make sure that I know what tablets I am taking to keep informed.
What was the treatment like?
I used to put my cell phone on alarm to remember when to take the tablets. There were many – six in the morning, 5 in the night. After a while I have grown accustomed to the routine of morning and at 7p.m.. I have a pill box which allows me to fix the tablets in dosages. Most significant, I have stopped smoking and drinking. I have found that it is easy to have a good time like other people . I tell my friends that I get drunk easily so would not drink beers now. I eat better now, and I exercise every night. I feel good.
How has your family taken your diagnosis?
I wish my mother could know, but I know she will be upset. I try to hide the tablets from them – her and my siblings. I also try to leave the TV at any program talking about HIV/AIDS. I do not think my mother would put me out if she knows, she would probably be upset with me for a little bit. I do not know when I would tell her or the rest of my family. She has seen me ill and has dropped hints, but I don't answer her. I think Mummy knows.
And your friends?
I told another friend. He cried with me for half an hour. He used to call me regularly before I told him, but I have not heard much from him since. I think because I stopped drinking and smoking and probably not wanting to go out. Last year, I had unprotected sex with someone who I have feelings for and who has feelings for me. We thought that we could trust each other. I told him a few weeks ago, to go and do a test since I am now HIV positive. It was difficult for me to do. He said he would go. I have to check with him.
What about your job?
I saw something at my workplace, where they say something that they will not unknowingly screen people for HIV. I do not want them to know my status, since I am scared of being fired. I do not know if they have any laws to stop that from happening. I keep my business to myself. Before the test, I sometimes lost focus, and one time my manager asked me if everything was okay. I told her after I had accepted my test results that everything is fine.
What would you tell others?
I want to educate other people, to encourage them to do the test if they think they are positive and to start the treatment. People should not think that 'not knowing is best'. Before, at work, whenever they started talking about HIV at work, I used to shut up, now I make sure I keep the conversation going and talk about what I know.. things like that people are more likely to die from diabetes or heart disease complications rather than HIV/AIDS. I have not thought of joining any organization. I think it would be nice to meet other people who are HIV positive so as to share what is happening with us.
How are you doing right now?
Death is the last thing on my mind. I am determined to live well with HIV. I have been inspired by other stories, like that of Magic Johnson [American Basketball player who is HIV positive]. I believe I am responsible for myself and have to keep a positive outlook on life. Whenever I get depressed, I call my best friend. I would like to continue my education, and to get a better job, and to do all the things which I had planned to do. Now, I appreciate life even more.
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