# HIV HEROES

VANGARDIST

90

Being openly HIV positive and heterosexual

is kinda rare, and “outing” myself

would cause more burden than relief

at the moment. This half-knowledge

of HIV makes me feel more secure to

stay hidden—which is why I do not

desire a portrait of me to accompany

this article.

Revelations

HIV is a very intimate disease. Upon

mentioning it, not only does it cause

a shocked reaction from others, but

it immediately gives them a glimpse

into your sexual life. Any conversation

about HIV is immediately associated

with sex. It gives a person a view

of your past. And the reaction upon

confession tends to be a blank stare—and

as we all know, stares can be

louder than voices. The psychological

burden, especially when it comes to

meeting women, is heavy. Wearing a

mask, concealing my disease in social

surroundings, is becoming standard

and upon meeting potential partners,

the constant question in my head is:

“When do I tell her?” There is no correct

answer to that. Every time I meet

someone, a new assessment is required.

Legally, I am not obliged to tell

anyone about my status as long as I

take safety precautions. And yet this

status sharpens my senses about people.

Ideas like “Is this short term?”

and “Can I imagine this going somewhere?”

are immediate thoughts that

must be taken into consideration. Do I

destroy the initial, passionate curiosity

upon meeting someone by revealing

my disease, or do I dare put myself in

the situation of concealing this information

altogether? I try to assess how

the woman will react. I admit, I haven’t

put myself into such a situation very often,

since I fear the outcome. I’ve been

trying to avoid it, for the only answer I

can find at the moment is that I simply

do not know. We all wear masks in social

surroundings, but with HIV, carrying

an additional one is the norm, due

to fears of rejection, of discrimination,

of seeing horror in the eyes of someone

you desire—being seen as a threat

from someone you could potentially

love. Burdened by HIV, my approach

to sexuality and feels about myself are

in constant flow. My heart is proud but

it aches with rage. One moment I hate

myself, am plagued with guilt and feel

poisonous, and in the next moment I

stand defiant and find a superhuman

strength to rise above myself.

My personal mirror

HIV is a disease that comes from one's

behavior, not from circumstance. It is

caused by your own actions. Unlike hereditary

diseases, or bad luck, the only

one to blame for being infected is you

and your own actions. This, especially

at the beginning,

makes you question

every decision

you’ve made. My

perception of my

surroundings is also

in constant change.

Within the past year

of being infected,

my priorities have

been altered. Certain

friends simply

aren’t close anymore,

while others have

grown much closer.

My perceptions of

beauty, of intimacy

and especially of sexuality and women

have become very delicate. The strange

thing about HIV is that it is a curse—but

at the same time it is a blessing.

A relief. It makes me more aware

of everything I am surrounded by. And

when the depressive moments fade,

“everything we

shut our eyes to,

everything we

run away

from, everything

we deny, denigrate,

or despise,

serves to

defeat us

in the end.”

henry miller

the heights of life weaken my knees. A

feeling of gratefulness towards life envelops

me.

One of the hardest things to accept

is that certain things will never again

be the same in my life. A part of me

died when I found out about my infection.

In a way, I

have to relearn certain

habits and tendencies—things

that

used to be easy are

now completely different.

And yet, HIV

has given me a new

chance: a reset button

that allows me

to reexamine my

choices in life. There

is a certain rebirth

association with it.

While HIV is a burden,

causing me to

live life with a fear of

having to hide, wear a mask and have

a constant threat within me, it is also

altering my perceptions, giving me a

new honesty towards myself, my family

and my friends. And in defiance of negativity

and superficiality, I am confronting

my fears to exhale.

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