IN 2009 I WAS diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. To be perfectly honest I did not know much about HIV/AIDS except that it was something I did not want. I was 24 and working as a Human Resource coordinator for one of the biggest grocery retailers, where I had been for nearly four years. At the time I was diagnosed, I only had very few white blood cells and a viral load six-figures long. These numbers are never a good thing.
After many hospitalizations, three near-death experiences and developing seizures, I am still here. I began working professionally in the HIV prevention/education field in 2013 when I moved here to work for the Greater Columbus Mpowerment Center as the Outreach Services Specialist. Before that I was doing public speaking talks at various high schools, universities and organizations. I was sharing my unique story about how I wasn’t supposed to be still be alive. That I was a miracle. That I had a unique strand of HIV… blah, blah, blah. It wasn’t until I moved to Columbus that I fully started my career in public health.
Now I know what you’re thinking: You’re thinking that you’re about to read another story about how someone living with HIV has overcome and been successful and how they’ve been able to live life “normally.” Well, you’re wrong. Yes, I am living with HIV. Yes, I am successful. And yes, I am healthy. But to be honest with you I am tired of HIV.
Since moving here, I have been non-stop trying to make a name for myself in Columbus and in the field of HIV prevention/education everywhere. In a little over a year I have been able to accomplish a lot and I’m still just a baby in the field. I have worked hard and I am proud of myself, but at the same time I’m frustrated.
I am living with HIV and I work in the field of HIV prevention/education which combined is not easy. If I’m not testing, I’m program planning or doing outreach. If I’m not doing those things, I’m speaking about my story or giving a presentation. And if I’m not educating, I’m doing research or attending a conference. If that weren’t enough, I have to make sure I’m taking my medication, make sure I’m eating right, make sure I’m going to my appointments (the list goes on), in order for me to be holistically well.
It is very easy to get burnt out. There are moments when I want to run away from HIV. To pretend I am not positive, to change careers and to move. Of course I won’t and can’t do these things because I love my career, but those emotions are real.
HIV is ever present. Whenever I feel really tired or get a headache, I start thinking, “Oh no, I’m going to go in the hospital again.” Depending on other things I am physically feeling, sometimes I think the extreme: “Is this the day I am going to die?” With each pill I take or each time I go to get my blood drawn or when I go into the office or when I do a talk, I’m reminded that I am HIV positive. It gets hard.
There are still times I find myself crying in the middle of the night, asking God why. Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe that I would not be who I am today without HIV. It has made me a stronger as a person and a professional. That said, I am tired of HIV and have to work to stay positive.