# HIV HEROES

VANGARDIST

86

causing me to reflect on my own life

and the decisions I have made so far.

A questioning of my goals and motivations

that gives them

a different meaning. For

I feel I carry death in me.

And every single day,

upon taking my medication,

I am given the

position to decide whether

I want to live or die.

“Every single day, for the

rest of my life.” That is a

strong, and I confess, strange sentence

to tell yourself. It is an experience very

few people can share.

The medication itself is quite a tricky

thing. On one hand, every day becomes

an affirmation of life. But the implications

of these blue pills are still

very present—that I cannot take a

break from them, that I’m not allowed

to forget to take them and that long

term consequences are still uncertain

are ideas that cause constant pressure.

The paranoia of forgetting to take

the pills still grabs a hold of me. Not as

much as in the first few months, but it

still happens. A brief panic attack comes

over me every so often, trying to

remember whether I have taken them

or not. Although two alarms annoyingly

remind me of them every single

day, I always have to be very present

in the moment when taking them.

These daily alarms accompany

me—not necessarily

as a dominating

feature, but their

presence adds a certain

reminder of HIV in my

life. Every trip I take to a

different time zone must

be thoroughly calculated

for possible adjustments

to my alarms. Often, I have to readjust

my intake habits a few days in advance

to not diminish the medication’s effect.

My poisonous self

The second thought that dominated

my mind in the first weeks after my diagnosis

was neither about my own psychological

situation, nor was it about

telling my friends and family. Although

those two thoughts were very present,

there was one other thing that caused

me nightmares: the fear that I had infected

someone else. The idea that

my irresponsible behavior had potentially

endangered someone else’s life

kept me up at night. I was put in the

situation of having to inform three women

of my status. Simply having ”that”

conversation is bad enough. Had I infected

anyone else, I don’t know how

I could have lived with the guilt. This

situation would be even more difficult

than it already is. After accompanying

these women to their tests and finding

out that I caused no further infections,

I was filled with relief—but scared.

Even today, with my levels being far

below the detection limit, and practically

being unable to infect anyone via

sexual contact, this fear remains, and

it has had a great impact on my sex

life. Ease and lightness have gone. For

about a year, intimacy was more associated

with stress, anxiety and fear than

anything else. I trust medicine and my

medication—but I’m not entirely sure

how much I trust myself yet.

Herein lies one of the differences between

homo- and heterosexuals. I don’t

want to downplay the fear that homosexuals

have when thinking about the

consequences of infecting someone

else—but those consequences for women

are much greater than for men.

Simply the idea of bearing children has

to be taken into consideration. The

impact of infecting a woman is, in that

sense, much greater than infecting a

man.

I have my blood tested every three

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