Living the Questions
BY Tyler Helms
November 30 2010 8:35 PM ET
A year — 365 days, the passing of 12 months, four seasons, a birthday, holidays of our choice, each a quantifiable measure of the passing of time. I have for years used these markers to essentially measure the year in question or whatever arbitrary schedule I was on. From grade school to college, the first to the next, relationship to being single, each evaluated through a year, perhaps over many, sometimes only one. The questions were “What was I doing then?” and “What job did I have?” and “Where did I live?” and the respective answers were often the measure of success, failure, or simply progress. December 1 came so quickly, but it has felt like 10 years since I pressed “share” to update my status on Facebook and told the world I had HIV. And here I am 365 days later thinking, How do I measure this year?
I chose World AIDS Day for obvious reasons. It’s a time when many mark all things related to HIV or AIDS. For some, that is remembering those who have been lost — nearly 25 million to date. For others, it’s a renewed charge to end the stigma and prejudices that still accompany this disease. There are those who focus on the research, the science that has in 20 years taken this illness from a death sentence to manageable for most. My measure of success was simply to start a conversation, one that has no doubt been carried on and supported by others for nearly 30 years. But when I found myself unexpectedly thrust into this community, I grew painfully aware that while World AIDS Day is no doubt a call to action, the other 364 days of the year seem awfully quiet ... too quiet. I had already lived with this reality for nearly two and a half years, and with a simple update on Facebook about my real status, a short narrative of my story, and pictures to put faces with the support I had been given privately, I would attempt to start a conversation in places it didn’t exist before.
The reality is, most people likely have not thought much about AIDS since we talked. A few have been reminded, perhaps through AIDS Walk New York or this column. But we all have our own lives — the expectation that even those close to me would live my conversation day in and day out would be ridiculous.
But my reality was just that — each morning, day and night, I have been living with HIV, now for nearly four years. This year I lived it publicly.