COMMENTARY: My story is simple, not unlike many others. I am a gay male who contracted HIV through unprotected sex. I was careful, but not careful enough. Responsible, but learned quickly this virus does not discriminate.
I’m a 28 year old, responsible, honest, and smart individual. I am someone’s son, someone’s friend. I am a Vice President at Deutsch Advertising, a demanding boss and loyal employee. I'm romantic but cynical and at the core a loving person in search of all the things that make us happy. I also happen to be HIV positive.
I was diagnosed over two years ago. A reality I had of course thought about as a gay male, but never imagined. I do not recall a day since that I have not thought "what is life like without this burden."
What followed has been a personal, sometimes painful, and challenging journey to discover how to live with HIV. I'm still discovering. The fortunate part is modern medicine allows us to do just that, live with a better quality of life and longer than those before us. We owe that medical treatment to everyone.
My progression has been quick. I was placed on medication last June. A step I thought would be far off. A pill I will take everyday for the rest of my life. A commitment to a medicine, a subtle reminder each night.
The images of the weak and sick are so very real and my journey pales in comparison. But the face of HIV spans the globe, from villages in Africa to apartments in New York City. To the poor with no jobs, to a those that have built successful careers.
My diagnosis gave me perspective, a sense of mortality, urgency and focus. It has challenged my mental capacity beyond expectation.
Those challenges have impacted relationships and at times stripped me of all hope. There is a constant caution that blankets every future intimate moment. Anxiety that is unexplainable. Shame that gets the best of even the most confident. And lingering in the distance, that conversation with someone you are starting to care about and all that follows those simple words, "I have HIV."
So today is the next step in my journey. I share this publicly not out of pride, not in shame, but because its real.
Why Facebook? Why not. A forum made for conversation I encourage my family, my friends, my colleges to use my story on this day to start a conversation – at work, at home, with friends, just talk.
Your response or lack there of won't change my situation. But the conversation you have today, tomorrow or in years to come just might change someone else's future. That's a power no responsible person should ignore.
Do what feels right. My profile public, permission granted…use me, my name, my picture, my status, to speak up.
Comment...ask questions...show support...show disdain...make assumptions...challenge your perspective...have tolerance...and you might just find out more about yourself than you ever expected.