My Life With HIV
My name is Brad, and I’m HIV-positive I wouldn’t even dream of saying this phrase out loud several years ago It all started when I was 16 I played for my school volleyball team We were supposed to have a medical check-up each year before starting our training I was called to our school doc for a confidential talk I will never forget that moment I remember literally unable to understand anything I was told except the phrase, “You’ve tested HIV-positive” I felt like I was falling down from a very high building “This is definitely a mistake,” I thought But it wasn’t The worst part of it (if there could be a worst part) is that I have literally no idea where I could have caught it. I don’t belong to any risk group, nor does my family I thought it over and over for hours, but then I gave up. I finally decided that it was irrelevant. I don’t remember much of what I did for the next weeks When I talked to my new doctor who was responsible for my therapy I remember she was smiling – and I was so angry at her ‘You’re definitely HIV-negative,” I thought I should have listened to her more attentively, because she was explaining some really important stuff All I understood was that I was supposed to take a bunch of pills to prolong my miserable life for a couple of years And then there was that talk with my parents I love them, but they have always been distant from me This time they were kind to me, but in their eyes I saw some kind of disappointment Deep in my heart I knew that they thought HIV only happened to bad people I didn’t hope for any support from them I was scared to go out from my home, because I was frightened both of being bullied and of infecting someone else I knew that you can’t infect anyone with HIV just by sneezing on them and that my HIV status was confidential, but believe me, at such moments you become very irrational So I locked myself alone in my room coming out very rarely to visit school from time to time and I gave up my volleyball training completely Sometimes my parents came to me and tried to start a conversation, but I already knew what they were thinking about me so I had no desire to talk I was so lonely living my life between my TV and computer I felt like sitting alone in an empty room with its walls slowly moving towards the center to crush me alive After about a month of my voluntary imprisonment, Coach Stephens came to me to find out why I gave up volleyball training He thought I was ill, and came to ask if I needed any help I thought I would never reveal that I was HIV-positive to anyone, but at that point I was so strung-up by the silence that I actually shouted out “I’m HIV-positive, okay? I’m about to die, so leave me in peace!” He looked at me seriously and said: “No need to yell Do you know I’ve been HIV-positive for 16 years already?” His words were like a bucket of cold water The idea that there could be other HIV-positive people never occurred to me I asked him to tell me more He told me about antiretroviral therapy, and that if I took pills I would live a long and happy life and that there were lots of people like me, and lots of other things that my doctor had definitely told me but I was too overwhelmed to listen I was crying like a baby in front of him He said he would help me He had a private talk with my parents explaining to them things they otherwise would never want to hear about He brought me back to volleyball training He introduced me to an HIV teenage support group, where I made friends with really nice people who are now by my side My life isn’t perfect now but I’ve definitely learned to gain from what life gives me My parents are now more supportive and learning to be more open I’ve become more responsible towards myself and others All this is thanks to coach Stephens, who has become a mentor for me and given me hope I want to give hope to someone else, so I’ve decided to volunteer Now I’ll help other teenagers not to get stuck in the same limbo that I’ve been in myself You know how I would sum it up? Instead of feeling HIV-positive, I now just feel more like a simply positive person Now I know I am not alone and that people around me are giving me support and strength to move on And there’s another thing, a private one I would like to share with you Five years ago I met a girl who became my soulmate and two years ago she agreed to become my wife And last week she gave birth to a wonderful tiny and completely healthy baby – my first daughter I can’t tell you how happy I am Wish I could have known it 6 years ago!