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June 19, 2007: The day I tried to kill myself


My life changed June 19th 2007 at 12:34 p.m.  I could count on one hand how many times he and I got together to have sex, but I could never recall how many times I had sex with him and her.  I remember it like it was yesterday, "David, I'm sorry but you have HIV,..." the nurse said.  She said something beyond that, but my spirit became vexed while my eyes, ears, and mind lingered on confusion and disbelief.  I couldn't conceive what she told to me, so the rest of her words trailed and faded away in thin air before reaching my ears.  All of a sudden everything was more pronounced.  The room was brighter and whiter it seemed.  I heard myself laughing hysterically.  It wasn't my usual laugh, rather, an odd, eerie laugh that I didn't even quite recognize.  I heard her voice again, louder this time, with a sadness that made all the feelings I had dissipate long enough for her message to hit me sincerely; in my heart.  The news didn't seem remotely true.  She said to me again, with agony in her voice and tears welling in her eyes, "I know about your brother's diagnosis of AIDS, and I know about your aunt's diagnosis of AIDS, but honey you have HIV."  A wave of peace overtook me like an undercurrent in the sea. I squared my shoulders back, smiled and said, "Well, so what now?  Do I just take medications until I die or what?" She said, "David I prayed for you. I even submitted your blood work twice despite everything I know as a doctor because I was hoping it was a false positive.  When I finished praying for you, I knew in my spirit you were gonna make me proud."  I remember thinking, "Is this woman actually telling me I'm going to make her proud?!  You just gave me a DEATH sentence!  I have an infectious dis-ease." 

I thanked her and made my way to the door.  The first phone call I made was to my best friend.  No answer.  I was PISSED.  On to the next phone call; my college "dip" who was one of the few people I had unprotected sex with.  I was standing at the corner of Wabash and Roosevelt in downtown Chicago.  When he answered I said, "Yo man wassup?! I just left the doctor's office....."  He muttered, "oh no."  I said, "What the hell do you mean 'oh no' bruh?"  He said, "Man, I thought I was good.  I mean, when we were doing our thang with ol girl and everything. I mean, my doctor diagnosed me a year prior to us meeting on campus, but I thought cause I was taking the pills know...I was good and so was anyone I was hooking up with....."  My blood began to boil.  This was the same person who said to me and "ol girl" when we first started hooking up, "Yall good, right?" and this jerk was HIV positive all along and knew it!  For whatever reason he thought she and I were safe as long as he nor I ejaculate while inside any of the people involved.  Sounds really stupid now.  I thought about cussing him out and making threats, but it wouldn't have changed anything, and the fact is I was responsible for my health.  I should've never put myself at risk, period.  I heard myself say, "Man, may God have mercy on your soul.  I wish you the best."  When I hung up, I never heard from him again.

I took a deep breath as tears formed in my eyes.  I was nervous and gagging at the thought of dialing my mom's work number to tell her that her second son was now infected with HIV.  This disease had not only taken residence in our bodies, but it also lay dormant in my sister's finances causing her bankruptcy as a result of caring for our brother, and costing my mom her job after 15 years of service at a hospital. 

I heard two rings and she picked up.  This was one of the few instances I had hoped no one would answer.  I said, "Momma, what you doin?"  She cut me off quickly, "What's wrong David?  I know something not right."  I could only imagine what a teenage girl goes through when she finally tells her parents she's pregnant with three more years of high school, and although I was twenty-two years old this had to be ten times worse than that.  I asked, "Mom, are you sitting down?"   She said, "No, and I'm not gonna sit down.  What is it?"  I pleaded, "Mom sit down please.  She repeated, "I'm not sitting down.  I'm at work.  Now tell me what's wrong."  Before I knew it I blurted out, "Momma I got HIV."  There was a long silence.  It seemed like five minutes, but in actuality it was probably thirty seconds.  I could hear her whispering, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Come on Jesus. Come on Jesus."  She cleared her throat, "David, I have one question to ask you and then I have to let you go."  Initially, I was shocked and pissed that she didn't say she was leaving work to console me.  "What is it ma?" I said.  She continued, "David I need you to answer this question honestly ok?"  I said, "Ok ma."  She asked, "Are you gonna live or are you gonna die? Because if you're gonna die I'm gonna hang up, and go to HR to up your life insurance policy to a million dollars, but if you're gonna live I will be your biggest supporter and support system."  I remained quiet.  Near tears I said, "Mama, I wanna live."  She said, "Ok then baby, then so shall it be added unto you.  Now I gotta go and finish this work.  I'll talk to you soon."  There's a strength and resilience indigenous to Black women and my mom is not an exception.  I would later understand she was only trying to prevent me from giving up as a result of my new reality.  I failed to remember she watched this same story play out with my brother.

After we hung up, I walked directly into the Jewel (liquor store) by my house to buy a bottle of Maker's Mark, called my dealer to order an 8 ball of cocaine, and two 8ths of "Mary Jane".  While I waited for him to arrive, I went to a local bar and slammed five double Maker's Marks & ginger ale.  I could barely stand, but on my way out I lit a cigarette; parliament light.  As I inhaled, for one quick moment I felt liberated from the news, but the instant I exhaled the sobering reality hit me, "You still have HIV!"  My "high" was fading so I hurried to meet my dealer.  We did some lines of cocaine and smoked some "weed".  Once he left, I knew it was an opportune time to end the story.  I took another hit of "coke" before walking onto my balcony.

My apartment was eleven stories high overlooking Chicago's Michigan Avenue; one of the city's busiest thoroughfares.  I walked out on the balcony and began climbing onto a barstool.  I knew after this somersault I'd at least be remembered for something.  I would be declared the first black man, ever, to jump to his death on this expensive street.  I placed my right foot on my patio table, and as I prepared to bring my left foot to join my right foot on the table a wind from the lake shoved me backwards and into my apartment.  On the way in, I hit my head on the doorway to the balcony.  I was passed out for more than 14 hours....


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Comments on David Robertson's blog entry "June 19, 2007: The day I tried to kill myself "

It feels like yesterday...

It's not easy to deal with the news that you have got HIV, but anyway you have two paths to follow after that: end your life or fight to continue living and well, and I guess that the second is the breavest one

Thanks for sharing your honest truth. We may be strangers to each other, but in the depth of the despair that overwhelms us at times we are brothers! Keep on fighting the good fight!

I just want to say that this story is inspirational. I am 19 years old and just found out my status 7 months ago. Overall, I am handling the news well and am trying to move on from that day I found out. However, I continue to discover that my few sexual partners (count on one hand) are all negative, but every test proves otherwise.

Sometimes I wake and lay in bed thinking, "What's the point." What keeps me going is the fact that I am a student and have never really lived a life that made me proud.

Just as that wind saved your life, in a sense, HIV saved mine. I know how difficult that is to comprehend, but if it was not for that disease I would still be with my ex-bf and living a very illegal life. Since my status discovery, I am a full time college student and one of the sole leaders on my campus to hopefully getting one of the few Fraternal Chapters on this campus for Queer and Allied men.

If it was not for HIV, I would still be self-loathing and self-destructive. I know make myself the #1 priority and leave stress from school and negative comments from others behind. I used to have absolutely no self-esteem and hated everything about me. Ill be honest, I have gained 10 pounds since this time last year and I love myself now more than I have ever in the past.

In a sense, one man's curse is another man's destiny.


Thanks David for sharing your story...
your Ma is right... and I hope has proved to be your biggest supporter and support system... obviously you're doing just fine.

I was diagnosed about 23 years ago, I was married at the time with 5 kids ... wasn't easy going home and saying "Guess what honey"...
but I'm still here thanks to effective drugs and a gr8 medical system here in Australia... not to mention the love of friends and finding a space to love myself.

I've celebrated 23 years of wonderful, mysterious life... had my lows and highs... been there to see my kids finish uni and have 4 beautiful grandchildren (three with East African heritage)

'have shared my life for the past 11 yrs with a beautiful man who is also poz

I can hardly remember those "bad ol' days"...
keep doing what you're doing well... when you need to start those ARVs do so with all your might(but before your CD4s drop below 500)... as the wise of preacher in the old testament said: Whatever you find to do, do it with all your heart.

God knows we need more voices like your's.

hugz xxx Neil

David, Wow, very touching, emotional life changing story you wrote. The wind that blew you back in the doorway, well it seems someone was looking out for you, be it your guardian angel or the big man himself, you are meant to be on this earth. Of course the guardian angel could have tucked your head down for you, 14 hours out is unreal. I have had similar experiences that really told me, I belonged here and now it was my turn to help others like me. Your Mother couldn't have said it better too, choose life, that seems what she was trying to tell you, she sounds like a very strong woman who loves you. You have a purpose to fulfill now and I think you are doing that by posting your story. We learn from each other our peers, we benefit by others stories and experiences and if we don't want to see the same fate for others like we have been dealt, then we need to continue telling our stories and edcuating others. No it is not easy, life is not easy for anyone, poz or not. But I know others that have said wow, I feel better about myself now and want to live with HIV because you shared your life story. I continue to share my story to this day, about 18 years after being diagnosed, and skipped HIV, I went directly to AIDS and didn't collect the 200.00 bucks either lol. I have worked in the HIV field for a long time now in NYS on many levels, I love what I do, mostly it is trying to help others to realize life is still worth living even if you have HIV or AIDS. Actually I appreciate life more, my family more, my friends more and I value reading the stories of others like you and listening to others, tonight I did that while running a group, I walk away with a feeling of pozitive energy, batteries recharged ready to face my life and press on. I have a purpose, it is greater than just me,,,you too have a purpose besides yourself, think about it for a minute or two. I hope to read more of your life story here. I would like to post your story on a website I assist with and I think others in Central New York would benefit, for a few reasons. I am not sure I can post websites here, but I am more than happy to write another, shorter lol, entry with the info on our website. Please keep trying and live your life so you can try to educate others on what to do and not do and how to stay safe so they too don't have to go through this too. You can still make others proud, I'm sure if they read this, you would see just how proud they are now. Good luck, God bless, john


Thank you. In late night times like these its comments from people like you who scoop me out of the hands of depression and imprint a smile on my face and imbedded in my heart.

One joy scatters a hundred griefs!


I have realized that in this journey it has not been on my own strength but of higher power and those like yourself that have paved the way for young men like myself to stand firm and know that this IS NOT a death sentence rather a second chance to live and live while educating individuals. You are appreciated immensely. May peace, grace and abounding love overtake you for the next 23+ years.

Speaking Life,



STAY CONNECTED!!!! I'm excited about your future man!

I know how you felt. I found out I was positive July 2007. I gotten it from my best friend brother and he knew he was infected. My immune system has always been the best so I was very angry at him. The first two times we used protection and then the last two I didn't because he made a big argument out of it like I would not give you anything. I cried but I decided to live. My family supported me fully. My boyfriend of four years made me fill like hell most of the time so I had to leave him. I didn't want to reveal to no-one because I didn't want no one to look at me differently. We don't know how or when we are going to die but we know one day it's going to come. I already had a personal relationship with God so I decided to forgive him and draw strength from it and enjoy the rest of my days here taking nothing for granted. I'm glad you decided to live.

David- I am a SGL Black man in the Nation's Capitol. With the highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection in the Country. Nobody is talking about this. Among SGL circles- 85% is positive- and nobody is being Honest. Thank you for sharing your truth. Thank you David, for deciding to LIVE! And for being BRAVE enough to tell your story. Please write is an inspiration to othere young brothas out there who may not have any kind of support system. You are LOVED.
Washington, DC

Hi David, Thank you for your incredible story of hope. I am not positive but a very close friend of mine transitioned several years ago from HIV. Since that time I have been interested in HIV care, development of medicine and the hope of living. I know that one day the stigma of HIV will no longer make people not want to reveal their status, or even want to live out their lives because it wil be eradicated. I'm hopeful of a future where everyone will become more informed and not judgemental, and maybe the government will really find a cure instead of making money off of the medicine. Stay strong my brother.

I would really like to know why you havent written anthing since 2011. What I read was very informative and interesting and i wanted more from you.

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This page contains a single entry by David Robertson published on January 19, 2011 11:48 AM.

The Face of Hope Counteracts the 'Buy a Life' Death Sentence Marketing Campaign was the previous entry in this blog.

Holiday Hope: "This Christmas" is the next entry in this blog.

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