Thoughts from a Long-Term Survivor

May, 1999

I’m still frightened that people may find out that I have HIV, or as I call it, “The Big V.” I used to make up stories about why I had to go to the doctor and why I had to take pills all the time. It’s frustrating to feel like I have to lie. What crime did I commit? I have nothing to feel ashamed of. If I say that I have cancer, people are sympathetic and understanding. If I say that I have HIV, will they reject me or look down on me? I just want to be honest without being afraid.

I wrote the above statement 15 years ago for an article in AIDS Clinical Care. I thought then that it was a miracle I was writing up my life story at that point! Back then the virus consumed my whole life. Now, 31 years after being diagnosed, I don’t live like that anymore.

HIV is a chronic illness; not a death sentence. I never thought I would enjoy my son growing up and now I have five grandchildren! They are so precious to me and I am able to enjoy them. Now, I am not worrying about not surviving, but about the normal, everyday stuff. My mantra is “Everyday is a blessing.” That is how I look at life. You don’t dare to take anything for granted anymore.

There is life after HIV/AIDS, but who would have thought this almost thirty years ago? Now I’m just another regular person with a chronic illness, living my life with my day-to-day struggles. Education and awareness are needed to change the discriminating attitudes. I will close by saying that HIV is all of our problem. We must be the voice for the voiceless.

*This post was adapted from a message originally published in the “Let’s talk About It Magazine.”

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1 thought on “Thoughts from a Long-Term Survivor

  1. This so great to read your story . You’re truly inspiring to all of us living with HIV for shorter times and newly diagnosed. I was only diagnosed 4 1/2 years ago and I wasn’t sure I would live this long. I was very stupid in today’s world of media gossip not to have protected myself better. I soon learned after my diagnosis that I could live a long life even with HIV. I am lucky the medicines work for me and if I take care of my other health issues I can survive. The stigma is still one of my hardest issues to face. I hide my illness from all but my immediate family. HIV won’t kill us but the stigma still injuries us with no limits. Pray for knowledge to overcome ignorance and fear.

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