Will I be loved and treated the same way if people know I am HIV+?
Updated: Mar 18, 2019
I am living a normal life like any other person, but for people who don't know my status, will they accept me just the same if they knew that I am HIV positive? Will I be loved and treated the same way? These questions still run through my mind every now and then. Some problems that I am finding nowadays is to trust people again and I still find it difficult to talk about my condition with new people because I think that there is still a long way to go in teaching our society about HIV.
It was on a fateful Thursday the 6th May, when I received a phone call from the GU clinic regarding my results of my routine check-up; the person on the other end of the line made arranged for an appointment with the doctor as she wanted to speak to me about my results. I felt very confused as this never happened to me before. A million thoughts rushed through my mind. I called my friend to talk about this dreaded phone call and he told me that there was nothing to worry about; “maybe it’s just an infection in your urine” he said, reassuringly.
I woke up the next day with so many questions and none answered, filled with anxiety! I arrived at the GU clinic, and as I entered the consultation room, I found a doctor and three nurses waiting for me. The air was so tense, I could cut it with a knife.
I sat on the edge of my seat in the chair in front of the doctor with the nurses standing beside me. My adrenaline rush bursted into anxiety. The doctor’s exact words left an imprint on me ever since that Thursday; “We sent your blood to the laboratory and the result came out that you are HIV positive.”
I cannot find the words to describe the feelings of that moment; it was overwhelming. Fear, anger and disbelief filled my body all at the same time. Still in disbelief, I asked her to repeat the whole sentence and the same reply was uttered again from the doctor sitting across from me - “we examined your blood and the result came out that you are HIV positive.
"At the time I was in a two- year monogamous relationship with my partner, or so I thought. My whole world came crushing down at the realisation that not only I was cheated on but was given a life-threatening virus through no fault of my own! "
“It’s impossible!” I said with great conviction because knowing my sex life, it was impossible to get the HIV virus or any STD for that matter. At the time I was in a two- year monogamous relationship with my partner, or so I thought. My whole world came crushing down at the realisation that not only I was cheated on but was given a life-threatening virus through no fault of my own! All this anger kept running through my head as I was all here by myself in this situation I never thought I would find myself in. I asked the doctor to re-do the clutching on to the possibility it was a false negative and she agreed to do the test again where I had to wait for an hour to know the results.
"That hour was the longest and most excruciating hour of my life. I felt lost and alone, because after receiving such life altering news, I expected a councillor or a specialist would be available for consultation. No one came."
I sat on the couch as the doctor took more blood samples for testing. That hour was the longest and most excruciating hour of my life. I felt lost and alone, because after receiving such life altering news, I expected a councillor or a specialist would be available for consultation. No one came. I decided to go and give my best friend a call and let him know what was happening. He could not believe me; thinking this was a joke in bad taste as he knew me very well.
I knew nothing about HIV. What was going to happen to me? So of course the worst of the worst rushed through my head. Finally, it was time to get back to the clinic where I found the same scenario as I had left it, the doctor behind the desk and the nurses beside her. I was hoping and praying that the previous result was not mine and it was all wrong. The doctor told me to sit down, make myself comfortable and then she told me that the result is still the same. I am HIV positive. My heart was beating fast, my eyes filled with tears and my mind trying to wrap itself around the news and trying to hold back the tears. The silence was deafening!
After some seconds, the doctor asked me if I was ok. I replied “Yes”, but I was overwhelmed, as I still could not believe that this just happened to me. The doctor said that everything was going to be ok and that they were there to help and assist in any manner I needed. One of the nurses standing behind the doctor told me to follow her and she took me in a quiet room. We started chatting about the situation; I still could not believe that from now on I am going to live a life as a person who has HIV. She took my details and she gave me her number and she tried to make the situation seem easier then it looked. She told me that from now on I need to do more tests to make sure I will have a healthier life.
I had to go to work and I had to act as if nothing happened to me. It was the worst day of my life. I am not a person who hides my feeling but I had to! I was never going to say something regarding my health to anyone outside the circle of my trusted friends! I texted my best friends and I told them that I needed to talk to them urgently that night and I told them not to question me regarding what was the meeting for, this was a situation that I needed to tell face to face and not by texting.
My day at work was shitty already trying to smile at people acting as if nothing happened. Internally I was asking myself: Am I going to die? Am I going to hurt someone? Especially the people I love. With whom can I talk about my problem? No one is going to understand what I was going through and many question that I do not have an answer for them.
I remember I arrived to my friend’s place and I found my friends waiting for me full of questions to ask. When they saw me they started to ask me what the meeting was about and at that moment I bursted into tears, I had been holding this cry from the moment that I received the bad news. I took several minutes to calm down and they were still confused what had happened to me! In a lower voice, I told them that I was HIV positive. They were shocked knowing what person I was and they started asking me questions which I had no answers for. I knew nothing about HIV, there was no information about this stigma and I still believe it is a stigma regarding the topic. I told them that the nurse is going to call me and she was going to fix an appointment for the next tests.
After a long day full of mixed feelings I arrived home, I was all by myself with so many thoughts all over my mind, I rushed into the shower, I felt disgusted with my body and at the same time I was very worried that I can transmit the virus to someone else. I spent that night crying and did not manage to close eye to eye.
Twelve days later, 21st of May I had my first visit at the doctor, I was very anxious because I knew nothing what was going to happened! I went in and the doctor explained what was going to happen from that time onwards. She took my blood samples again to start the procedure for some tests. She explained about the viral load and the cd4 count. After a week I had to go there so they will tell me the results, results were not good because the viral load was 400,000 and the cd4 count was 250, the doctors consult between them and they decided to start the therapy. She told me that I needed to start taking medicine; I did not know that I had to take the medicine for the rest of my life since this was everything new for me. I was shocked at the beginning but I was willing to make my life to become normal and to live a healthy lifestyle.
The consultant decided to prescribe Sustiva and Combivir as my medicine, I had to take the Combivir twice a day at 6.30 in the morning and 6.30 in the evening and the Sustiva once a day at 11.00 in the evening. I remember that I had to take my dinner not later than 9.00 pm because of the medication. I remember that the doctor told me that I could not drive after I take the medication because it would cause dizziness. It wasn’t easy at all adapting as my social life had to change as well.
"In total, I have to take six pills a day for the rest of my life!"
After two weeks, I noticed a rash showing on my body, I called the doctor and he told me to stop the medication immediately. I spent a week with a rush all over my body which was itching me. My doctor had changed my medicine - on the 25th of may I started to take the kaletra - a yellow pill that I had to take 4 a day, two in the morning and another two in the evening plus the Combivir, one in the morning and another one in the evening. In total, I have to take six pills a day for the rest of my life!
"I found it very difficult at the beginning because I found no help from any associations; where were the qualified people to provide counselling? Where were the support groups?"
It was not an easy thing for me to accept my new life. I considered myself as an unlucky man who gave everything to his relationship and in return, all he got was the HIV virus and some STDS. I found it very difficult at the beginning because I found no help from any associations; where were the qualified people to provide counselling? Where were the support groups?
Maltese are known for their generosity and compassion, however, where is the compassion towards HIV positive people? We are stigmatised and looked down to. And this is all due to the lack of education in the subject. Will people hug me or give me a kiss on the cheek when they know that I am an HIV positive person?
I had to do my research on my own and tried to figure out what do to with my new life. Thank God, I had my friends that supported me through the difficult moments in life and a special one helped me to change this dull moment into a positive way. Now it has been 4 years since I knew that I was HIV positive and Thank God, I am living a healthy life style, my viral load is undetectable and my cd4 count is 560.
Some problems that I am finding now a day is to trust people again and I still find it difficult to talk about my condition with new people because I think that there are still a long way to teach the society about the HIV virus.
I am living a normal life like any other person, but for people who don't know my status, will they accept me just the same if they knew that I am HIV positive? Will I be loved and treated the same way? These questions still run through my mind every now and then.
Some problems that I am finding nowadays is to trust people again and I still find it difficult to talk about my condition with new people because I think that there is still a long way to go in teaching our society about HIV.