90 Being openly <strong>HIV</strong> positive and heterosexual is kinda rare, and “outing” myself would cause more burden than relief at the moment. This half-knowledge of <strong>HIV</strong> makes me feel more secure to stay hidden—which is why I do not desire a portrait of me to accompany this article. Revelations <strong>HIV</strong> 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 <strong>HIV</strong> 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 <strong>HIV</strong>, 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 <strong>HIV</strong>, 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 <strong>HIV</strong> 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 <strong>HIV</strong> 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, <strong>HIV</strong> 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 <strong>HIV</strong> 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.