HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day
Being a long term survivor of HIV has been somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster. Back in the 90’s, a diagnosis of HIV was met with uncertainty and fear; stigma and judgement. I had existed with a false sense of security, that “tops don’t get HIV”. Back in the days of the epidemic, before PREP and way before much less toxic meds (or any meds for that matter), people were put into categories as it pertained to HIV. “bottoms” and “tops” had much different levels of risk and this caused people to walk around in denial. As the always “active” person in my sexual experiences, I was completely distraught when I got this positive diagnosis. Not only was I in shock, but because I hadn’t gotten tested even once from the time I became sexually active it allowed this virus to ravage my liver and my T cells as well. I had almost no t cells to speak of by the time I was told I had this horrible virus, because of fear and ignorance. To make a very long story short, I have lived through a time where getting HIV was not only uncertain, but whatever treatments there were, had extreme physical and systemic side effects. So, even if you managed to find success in a drug like DDI (Zerit) or Crixivan, you needed to take upwards of 30 pills daily, while watching your face disappear and your body become overly vascular, making you an easy target for peoples’ judgements. My path was uncertain, as many of these treatments I had resistance to. Only after more progress was made in science did I manage to find something that suppressed this virus, increase my T cells and get me to that proud and desirable term of “undetectable”.
Today, there is so much more education as well as way less toxic treatments. Science has also discovered that folks whi maintain undetectable viral loads can’t even transmit this virus through sex. Combine this fact with folks who don’t have HIV, being able to use Prep as a prophylaxis, and you have a much more confident landscape for people grappling with this once HORRIBLE diagnosis. The stigma has lifted to a large degree and the quality of life has done a 180 for folks either living with HIV as well as those who want to prevent ever getting it!