In 1999 I joined the U.S. Air Force; it was one of the best times of my life. I met my then partner in 2003 when I was still in the military. I was stationed at Dover AFB and he was living in DC. I moved to DC and within 2 years my relationship with him would come to its conclusion. I ended up living in a studio apartment in SW DC at the Waterfront. My behavior then was erratic and out of control. I started doing things that just really weren't me.
At the later part of 2006 I would often get sick and I didn't know why. I had to call into work several times because I was so under the weather and I almost lost my job. I knew something was wrong with me and I knew I needed to get checked for HIV.
One morning I woke up and got sick 5 times. I had flu like symptoms but I didn't feel I had a reason to have the flu. I decided to call my best friend Bryan and have him meet me at Us Helping Us People Into Living Inc. (UHU). UHU is where people can get tested for the HIV virus in the Washington DC area. They provide certain services that people with HIV/AIDS need to survive. I had felt comfortable being at UHU because I used to work there and still had friends who were employed there.
I ended up getting there before my best friend and decided to go get tested. I was administered the Orasure Test which can come up with the results within 20 minutes. I was so nervous. I honestly didn't think that I had the HIV virus. I came up with excuses and said things to myself like, "I don't feel sick now, nothing could be wrong with me", "I'm 26 I couldn't be HIV+". By the time the test was ready I had smoked about 10 cigarettes.
I walked back into the HIV testing room and the reader asked me, "Are you ready to hear your results, Mr. Smith?" I said, "Yes I am". She said, "Mr. Smith you've tested positive for the HIV virus".
I was devastated I couldn't believe it. The first thing I thought was I can't have any children. My second thought was what am I going to tell my parents, they would be destroyed. Then the final thought is I'm going to die.
Bryan arrived at the clinic and saw it in my eyes. He held me tight as I wept in his arms. I felt comfort and security in his arms. Bryan and I then went to the bar to decide what I might want to do next.
I decided to fight, to fight to stay a live.
When I told my parents they handled any way parents can handle their son telling them he has HIV, but my father and my mother are strong.
I told them, "Not to cry for me be strong with me"
After about 2 ½ years of being HIV+ I was forced to go on meds with a T-cell count of 261 and Viral Load of 77,000.
Now I am in a relationship and all my family and friends know about my status. They have given me the love and strength to help me through this journey and to make this journal.
This journal is to tell people that being HIV+ is not a piece of cake. People need to know what they might have to endure if they decide to put themselves at risk.
HIV is neither glamorous or a rite of passage. Watch the Journal and think twice.
In the words of Pedro Zamora, "I'm not dying. I'm living with it"