The first in a new series, HIV Stories, we meet Jessica and she shares her story living with HIV.
Jessica’s Own Words About Living with HIV: “Not what you think…”
When asked to write a guest post, I was honored to be asked but I couldn’t quite think of what to say. So I am just going to tell you my story. I am a single white straight female in my early 30’s (shhhh don’t tell) and I am HIV positive. HIV you say? Gasp! I am not typically what people picture when one thinks of HIV. Guess what? HIV does not discriminate, at all. Young, old, educated, poor, rich, black, white, straight or gay, it is an equal opportunist.
I never thought that I was invincible to STI’s or pregnancy or anything else parents warn their kids about. I just didn’t think about it. I was in a monogamous relationship and thought that I asked the right questions. We even talked marriage… Scary. During that time I was in college and donated blood on a regular basis in efforts to help others when I could. As you may know, each donation is tested. Well, on November 6 2003 I had a meeting with a Red Cross representative and was told that I had HIV. “What went through your mind when you heard that Jessica?” Good question reader! To be honest, I thought my life was over, that I would never find love, get married, have children or anything normal. Lucky for me I have an amazing support system. My family supported me then as well as now and I couldn’t ask for anything more. I was seen at John’s Hopkins right away. The care I receive there is supportive and the best for me.
Since my diagnosis I have been in good and bad relationships, graduated from college with my Masters and try to live life to the fullest. In no way am I perfect or always happy, but I have learned a lot along the way and try to be a better person. There was one time (also my college years) when I told a guy about my status. His reaction was to tell me he had to go to the store real quick and left. I knew that he wasn’t coming back. Oh well, I call it a lesson learned. When it comes to treatment and how my body deals with the infection, I have had it pretty easy. I have had no complications or side effects to the medicine. Besides the occasional cold or normal illness, my health has been good. From time to time I get a little down, however it doesn’t stop me.
There are a lot of ideas about what HIV is and expectations for the quality of life for a positive person. It’s not what you think. We can still have a long, healthy, and relatively normal life. I never realized how many things would be different or challenging or impossible with HIV. I can have as many kids as I want but I can not breast feed. Also being a surrogate is not an option, even though it wasn’t something I thought I would want to do. It is hard to start a relationship but I end up with better quality people in my life. I don’t need the negativity of ignorant people who will judge. I have learned that I will live a long time… With the help of medication. Although organ donation is out of the picture. I still have to eat healthier, exercise, and take care of myself just like everyone should.
My advice to anyone living with or effected by HIV, you are not alone. If I can do it, I have faith that anyone can do it. My story is unique to me and similar to others. I hope this post has motivated or helped at least one person out there. 12 years and counting and I am “Staying Positive”. So should you.