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20 Years Later

| 10 Comments
usmc_logo.jpgTwenty years ago today, my Marine Corps commanding officer read my HIV-positive diagnosis to me from a script. It was the day after my 22nd birthday. It was the worst day of my life.

Only 9/11 comes close, but obviously the horror of that day wasn't mine alone.

The closer this day has gotten, the more I've dreaded it. Now that it's here, I realize my fear was unwarranted. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, as I expected to feel, I am reinvigorated. Being a long-term survivor is both a privilege and a badge of honor.

That said, these 20 years haven't been easy. I gladly admit that I have had a better road than most living with HIV, but I haven't been immune. I know too well the health scares, the stigma, the discrimination, the rejection, the fear of dying too soon. It takes its toll.

Which is why I was so relieved to feel relieved today. Even after all HIV has thrown at me, I'm still here. And I intend to live long enough to kill it before it kills me. I haven't come this far to settle for anything less than being cured of HIV.


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Comments on Oriol R. Gutierrez Jr.'s blog entry "20 Years Later"

Having just read your column, I realize how fortunate I am to have known you for the last 14 of those 20 years. You've done many good things in this world, and you're an inspiration to me and to others.

Congratulations on surviving thus far. I've been diagnosed just under 2 years and I'm still in the thick of resentment, anger, fear, etc, etc, etc. If cost me the job I had at the time, destroyed my self-worth, and has affected almost every single aspect of my life up to this point. I hope to God that a cure rolls out sometime soon.

Brian I am sitting at 25 years right now, In my home community I have tried to be a Positive example. I worked in a custom Leather shop and made it well known that I was HIV +. For many years I had men come to me after the old 2 week test in tears knowing that they were POZ so stressed out it was not funny. I had to talk them down regardless of there testing outcome the stress was unhealthy. The answer I gave them was the test will be either yes or no. If the test results are yes then your doing heavy damage to your body that it can not afford to deal with, if the answer is no then you will have put your body through 2 weeks of hell for nothing.
Times are better now.
The Issues that long time survivors are now facing seen to be ignored. Yes with meds we have undetectable VL and great t cell counts, but the costs. Lets face it early meds were dirty and toxic leaving neurological land mines mainly Neuropathy. PN does not just affect hands and feet, it also affects sensitivity in the penis. ED drugs really are no help and to use a condom is an exercise in tragedy/comedy. The only option is sero sorting but we get a shame on you from all corners.
Quality of life for long term survivors is on the back burner, especially for those of us that were on AZT and Videx. Granted they were the first medications that showed some suppressive abilities against HIV, but the damage they did are now coming home to roost. Sexuality for HIV+ men is a low priority. To be honest watching my ability to function sexually as a top slip gradually away over the last few years has been very frustrating. It is hard to be a role model for normalcy when basic fundamentals of self identity are stripped away from the inside out.

It is getting better Dr's know what they are doing today and not just guessing. Let go of the negative things and live your life for yourself. in 25 years time the issues I am dealing with will hopefully be a thing of the past. Brian and my generation were the guinea pigs, that have blazed the trail. Yes it is not an easy road, but it can be a full road for you, if you focus forward and look for the good things in life.

Thanks Oriol for putting a POS spin on being POZ..I have good days and (fewer) bad days.. It boils down to two simple choices..for all of us.. Either the "whoa is me, why me,sick me" or "damn it ..I AM going to make my my future,moving forward,count" ..

I finally connect with the notion that ..It does not serve anyone,in any situation, to hold on to negative and debilitating thoughts...

These useless thoughts,rusts the vessels that carry them.

Period.

Its been 10 years to the day for me. I didn't have a good run. I ended up on Meds in my first year. Considering I wasn't meant to survive the first year I did pretty well. Other than the lippo on my tum that I hate, its our on community that stirs the hate and loathing towards positive people. The "clean and want to stay that way" comments etc ... are the things that get to me. I know my CD4 count is great and my V/L is undetectable. Thereby reducing the risk by 96% off the bat. Its the guys that don''t know they are POZ that have high V/L's that are the ones that poise the highest risk. Yet because they can't tell you that they are POZ tge "clean" issue doesn't apply. I think the way we educate our community needs to change. Lets stop making lepers of POZ people.

ALWAYS a joy to hear from other long term survivors, I myself was 25/26 when I found out back in 85-86 and I just celebrated my 52nd Bday this past August and am doing great.
Have to agree with JC above, I myself had a poor poor pitiful me air about myself the first couple years and drank like a fish and ingested sh*t I had no business doing but I came to a revelation that this HIV thing was NOT going to get me, that I was going to LIVE and prosper to be an old man one day and MIGHTY proud to say it that I am getting there. Struggles all the way to be sure, I beat BOOZE, I BEAT DRUGS, and I BEAT SMOKING CIGS about 2 years back FINALLY. All in all I consider myself a LUCKY MAN to be able to be here and address you all today!

I just read your story and it told me that we have something in common. I have been living Positive for 26 years and I understand what you have been going through. In the beginning it was the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. But as the years pass by I realized that I could not let this affliction get the better of me. Now it's been 26 years and I am doing great. I am on poz personals speaking to newly diagnosed individuals giving them hope and it gives me great joy when their response said how what I have said lifted there spirits. I believe that is my calling. I was always being told that God has a special purpose for me and that's probably why he stepped in when I tried to commit suicide. Today I don't have a problem revealing my status because I am okay with me. I truly believe that I am going to beat it. Thank you for inspiring me to continue to reach out I wish you the best that life has to offer and what God has in his plans for you.

I have been positive since 1986 and havehad full blown aids and am living proof thatdrugs work, if you take them and live a healthy and safe sex life style, you canlive to the 90s.

Being at 30 years poz since 1983, I too am blessed to be alive despite all the horrible health setbacks, but today, I am doing great!

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This page contains a single entry by Oriol R. Gutierrez Jr. published on August 30, 2012 6:25 PM.

HIV Stigma Among Gay Men was the previous entry in this blog.

Sharing Stories, Creating Hope is the next entry in this blog.

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