Positive Thinking – The Reality of Living With HIV part 1

9 months ago — 4 min read — 1 Comment
By Paul

I’m proud to introduce myself and my blog to you. Through these articles, I aim to show a new side of living with HIV that any reader can relate to whether they are HIV+ or not and maybe dispel a few myths along the way! I am Paul, a 39-year-old gay man diagnosed 13 years ago and these blog articles are my story. My positive, positive story.

Step 1 – Dials

I’m proud to introduce myself and my blog to you. Through these articles, I aim to show a new side of living with HIV that any reader can relate to whether they are HIV+ or not and maybe dispel a few myths along the way! I am Paul, a 39-year-old gay man diagnosed 13 years ago and these blog articles are my story. My positive, positive story.

Before diagnosis my life was pretty normal, bumbling along in my early twenties with a rough direction of what I wanted to do and a great group of close friends to bumble along with. Getting old was something that happened to other people.  I had an interest in Maths and Music but couldn’t quite decide on which and no real pressure on me to do so. Life still had its relative struggles and I saw them almost like dials you needed to be kept topped up such as the “Getting A Boyfriend” dial, the “Eat More Vegetables” dial, even the “Start Saving Early For Your Pension” dial.

Everyone carries these dials around with them, uniquely labelled, and everyone panders to the urgent one as it flashes more impatiently in their head. You could even look in on someone else and wonder how they had the “Don’t Let Them See My Spot” dial so high up on their list and then immediately wonder what you had wrongly high up on your own list that other people would find strange. I imagined these dials like little sand timers, all lovely colours and textures such as a leafy green colour for my “Eat More Vegetables” dial.

The HIV diagnosis came after repeatedly feeling unwell. It wasn’t a normal unwell if that makes sense? I was 26 and had enough normal “unwells”, even that fluey bedridden “I’m going to die!” one we’ve all experienced! Yet these bouts of ill, and they really were bouts, were quite different. Something was definitely wrong.  A rash here, a sudden shakiness there, then nothing, then feeling quite nauseous and then a period of losing a lot of weight quickly.  A general scan later and I was ushered into a room to be told I tested positive for HIV, comforted and counselled.

To be perfectly honest while I didn’t really know much about HIV (wasn’t it that thing that Freddy Mercury died of?), I didn’t feel I needed counselling and really just wanted to get out of there. I didn’t really know what I thought about it and it was a bit like it wasn’t really happening to me at all. There weren’t tears, and I wasn’t scared or frightened. Of course everyone must react differently and each reaction is absolutely valid but I think I just felt numb?  There was definitely a new dial appearing though – a very big one.  My boyfriend at the time was far more distraught for me. I felt I needed to comfort him.

I was given a lot of numbers. This I could deal with because I love numbers. You, everyone that is, have this measure of immunity they can test for called a CD4 count. Apparently a “normal person” (normal like me, just five minutes before the diagnosis then?) would get a number between 800 and 1500. Whatever the units of it were. Well apparently mine was 232. Now I know I am writing this now, 15 years later, but it was 232. I really do love my numbers.  So I was like a quarter? A fifth? Hmmm, a sixth as “immune to things” as the next person?  I gobbled that number right up and put it in my new shiny dial. The other number was something called a viral load and I’ll get to that in the next articles. With a CD4 count of over 600 these days, I couldn’t have known then that proper management of the disease could be so positively impacting.

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