According to the CDC, there are one million people in America living with HIV.
Statistically, I’m not alone. I know that. But sometimes it’s hard to remember. Sometimes I sit and wonder, “Why me?” It doesn’t matter at this point; I won’t see a cure in my lifetime. Probably.
I made a stupid decision one time, and it will affect me the rest of my life. Now I have to see a specialist every six months. I have to get 10 vials of blood drawn every six months. I have to get expensive medication every month. One mistake is all it takes.
I was diagnosed with HIV about two years ago. I still vividly remember the day I received the news. I remember the fear and anger and confusion.
The nurse told me my test results were “abnormal” and then hung up on me so she could set up an appointment with a specialist. I stopped breathing. It was the longest three minutes of my life. That three minutes would turn into the longest hour, the longest day, the longest month.
The first six months were rough. The only thing you ever hear about this virus is in reference to the AIDS Crisis. I was 20 years old, and I had been given a death sentence.
I’m lucky. I have such an amazing support group. My friends, my family, my doctors. They were there for me every step of the way. I’m lucky because I have insurance. I was able to afford the doctor and seek treatment. I was lucky. Others, not so much.
I got the help I needed. I met with the specialist and started on some medication. The good news is that medicine has come so far.
With medication, you can live a long, happy life. My doctor actually told me, “If you die, it won’t be from the HIV,” which I suppose is comforting.
With medication, the virus is undetectable in my body. The short of it is that the medicine suppresses the virus in my body so it doesn’t show up in tests, and there’s no chance of transmission.
I’m as cured as I’ll ever be in my lifetime.
This isn’t to scare people. This isn’t to lecture. My mistake was that I trusted a boy before I really knew him and we had unprotected sex.
The irony of it all is he’s the only guy I’ve ever been with.
You may think, “That won’t happen to me” or “Only gay men get that,” but you’d be wrong. It can happen to anyone. Case in point: me. A straight woman who contracts HIV her first time.
You can get HIV a number of different ways. No, not from using the toilet after a person who is positive or shaking their hand. It has to be passed through bodily fluids (through blood or during intercourse) or it can be passed by sharing needles.
Statistically, I’m not alone. And neither are you. If you have HIV, you are so strong and brave. If you don’t, count your blessings and go get checked.
This isn’t meant to scare you. Learn from my mistakes. Make educated decisions and please go get tested regularly.
I’m Emilee Brewer and I have HIV. But HIV does not have me.