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Thursday, February 6, 2014

HIV: ¿HOW BAD IS IT?

If you are HIV-positive, does that mean you wake up every day in misery, suffer throughout the day before collapsing in bed at night? No. Does it mean you just pop a pill every night and never give it another thought? Well, no, not that either.

If you’re positive and open about your status you’ll get a lot of people expecting you to conform to one of the two options above. You’ll encounter people who remain oblivious to the quite extraordinary medical advances that have occurred since the early days of the disease and you’ll encounter others who think that HIV is equivalent to diabetes (maybe it is, but I don’t hear anyone saying about diabetes, 'Oh, it’s just like HIV').

Of course the experience of living with HIV is going to be different for different people, depending on what stage you’re at when you get diagnosed, how you feel about yourself, whether you have a good support network and a range of other factors.

Being told that you have an incurable infection which, without medication, could kill you certainly is a wake-up call. Being forced to contemplate your own mortality can really make you think about what it is you’re doing with your life, what you want to achieve and how you’re going to make the best use of your time.

Of course the magic trick would be to have the same insight without the trauma of that diagnosis. Is that possible? In theory, I believe that it is. But this is not a journey of mine and the incurable factor is a lot to bear. The trauma of an HIV diagnosis (and make no mistake, for most it’s still a major trauma) can send people spiraling downwards, numbing their pain with drugs and alcohol and not doing their physical or mental health any good in the process. For all the people that find new reserves of strength, there will be others who will be floored by their diagnosis and may struggle to get back up again.

Social attitudes towards people living with HIV, perhaps especially within the gay community, have not progressed as rapidly or as positively as the medical treatment has. Sexual rejection is common place. Some people will judge you if you disclose to them, or even more so if you do not. The language that some use about people living with HIV is horrifying: people are blamed for contracting HIV, in a way that you wouldn’t dream of applying to smokers who get cancer, or are vilified as predatory and irresponsible.

Living with HIV is not as bad as it once was; we should all welcome the fact that it’s no longer a death sentence. But ignorance, prejudice and fear all combine to make it so much worse than it need be.

4 comments:

  1. Almost 32 years into this pandemic and we still need these discussions. I'm grateful for you keeping this in your radar. Love ya, naked brother!

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  2. I'm currently working with the local HIV/AIDS group - planning their 30th Anniversary Celebration. It's a good thing - but what a damn shame to need in the first place. The day will come when it's no longer needed, until that day arrives: Keep fighting the good fight!

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