Saturday, September 18, 2010
This entry is for everyone, in particularly HIV NEGATIVE individuals. I want to wend the importance of PREVENTION and TESTING and how a negative diagnosis works without discussing too many specific medical technicalities considering I am not in the profession. This entry is a bit detailed, but as I have reiterated in the past it is my decision to share my story so I can tell others out there not to make the same mistakes I did.
Sept. 29, 2009- Tested HIV Negative
Oct. 16, 2009 (approx.)- Hospitalized and severely sick
Jan. 21, 2010- Tested HIV Positive
Let me start by saying that I forgive myself for making poor choices in my life. However, as much as I’d like to I shall never forget the demonic occurrences that got me to where I am today. Not to mention if I am going to spread the word of prevention to the world it is important to remember why I am laying in my bed right now writing about this topic as opposed to a sassy love story.
Last summer, 2009, was a tiresome and lonely one. I worked most weekends and major holidays acting like I had been deprived of my favorite season and all its pleasurable events. When I had spare time I would drown myself in alcohol and parties that lead to me to these poor choices I speak of. There’s no need to give specifics.
As summer winded down and September approached I reached out to a couple of close girl friends of mine at work and explained to them that I had reason to worry about my health. No matter how many times they urged me to get tested for HIV I thought it’d be best to avoid testing altogether and perhaps my fears would go away in time. Finally, one the girls grabbed me by my non-existent hair and dragged me to a clinic in Midtown, New York City. The counselor conducted a painless oral swab that took twenty minutes for the results. While waiting the counselor spoke to me about my sex history and how I can prevent myself from endangering my body. The first piece of advice I can give those individuals that are due for an HIV test is to find a clinic that has counselors that will sit and speak with you while you wait for the results- not only did it calm my nerves to speak with someone, but it made the time go fast. Low and behold my results came back negative. My friend was overjoyed and although I was happy to an extent I knew deep down that I was not out of the woodwork.
My specialist broke it down for me months ago- since I was tested Positive in January 2010, but Negative in September 2009 and got sick in October 2009 does not mean that I was infected between the Negative diagnosis and my sickness. I was already infected before my negative diagnosis. Like I’ve stated, it was a summer where I made idiotic choices.
If HIV were a person on a scholastic scale, then they would be considered a genius. The virus knows when entering a new system planning to attack healthy cells that it also needs to hide from the cells in our body that will later kill them-our T-cells. T-cells, or CD4 cells, are natural cells in our bodies that continuously travel the entire organism seeking to attack viruses like the flu or common cold that are dormant in us. HIV has two goals: to replicate and to survive. It needs to replicate TO survive. The virus can only replicate through, literally through, the cells in our body. The virus will survive as long as they hide from our T-cells. Unfortunately, the virus will be successful in its attempt to escape the doom of T-cells. By the time our heroes come to save the day, the damage has already been done. In essence, when I received the NEGATIVE diagnosis in September the virus was already in my body and my T-cells were unaware of HIV roaming around replicating as we spoke. It was a matter of weeks before I was on my death bed.
Later in October I began to fall ill. I remember being at my place of employment and having severe chills. I figured, “tis the season” and I will just have to keep an eye out for the flu. As the week progressed I grew a fever up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. I had night sweats, no appetite and I could barely swallow water. I needed my mommy to take care of me. I took a medical leave of absence from work and was in and out of the hospital and my doctor’s office.
I had other symptoms, but there was never a cough, a sore throat or a runny nose. My doctor said my tests work showed no sign of the flu, a common cold, or strep throat. It began to dawn on me what the diagnosis possibility was, but once again because of fear, I kept my feelings to myself. Halloween came and gone without celebration and before I knew it the fever was gone and I was back to myself, twelve pounds lighter.
From that day on I would dwell on the fear that I may have HIV but was too afraid to find out the truth. It took two and a half months for me to build the courage to face the music and see if my deduction was correct. On January 21, 2010 I was diagnosed with HIV.
My description is not made to scare you. I want you to understand that getting sick the way I did was a good thing. My HIV specialist later explained to me why my illness was so severe. My body was working double overtime trying to kill the HIV virus. Back in late September, or early October, just before I grew sick was the time period when my T-cells discovered an HIV cell and sent in the troops (other T-cells) for backup to kill the foreigner. As uncomfortable as the experience was I do understand that my immune system fights hard to keep me alive, whether it’s killing HIV viruses or any other viruses. Now my body is aware that there is HIV in me and as long as my heart still beats it will forever battle the cells- or until there is a cure. Just like any war there will be deaths on both sides of the battle field. HIV cells die, but so does my T-cells in the battle. My T-cells can’t fight HIV alone so it needs allies- my medications. Now T-cells can have coffee breaks or fight other sicknesses in me, like the flu, while my medications do some of the work. Now the possibility of me dying from HIV is almost non-existent so long as I am obedient and take my medications everyday and at the hours I am supposed to.
So for all of you individuals out there who test negative on an HIV test- I want you to understand how important it is to follow up on testing every 3-6 months to be 100% sure that you don’t have HIV. Together, we can stop the replication of this horrible illness that has taken the lives of millions. Be safe.
My Final Reference:
1-HIV Negative Individuals: approximately 500-1500 T-Cells in the body
2-My T-Cell Ct as of March 2010: 391 T-Cells (due to the significant toll my body took in Oct. 2009)- no meds
3- May 6, 2010-virus UNDETECTABLE IN MY SYSTEM- 460 T-Cells with meds
4- August 4, 2010- 652 T-Cells, with meds, and still rising
*The latest recommendation I read that an HIV positive individual should consider starting medications- <350 T-Cells
*considered an AIDS patient- <200 T-Cells- note that even in this category you can get healthy again and go back to an HIV-level patient. Hence, not a death sentence.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Let me start by apologizing for my absence. It has been a couple weeks since I’ve posted a new blog on the internet.
- Look over & give feedback for the new POZIAM website
- Help build the “Does HIV Look like Me?” newly diagnosed section of their website
- Take pictures with DAB the AIDS Bear with NYC landmarks- ongoing
- Create next blog entry- TONIGHT
- Pay final Verizon bill on Friday
- Pay portion of blood work bill as well as Doctor’s visit(s) bill- ongoing
- Pick up paycheck from staffing agency on Thursday
- Former 401K plan- use $$$ to pay medical bills? Pending
- Upload Part 3 and 4 Vlog series to Youtube- attempt No. 6 or is it 7?
- Hang Curtains- DONE!
I’ve been slacking on my response to a handful of these tasks simply because I hadn’t had the time to commit. I always get everything done in time, but challenges have approached me. I recently accepted a new job as an administrative assistant at one of America’s well-known railroad companies. That’s right; I can almost say goodbye to my crappy job (that I have written about previously) and say hello to my full time career! However, in order to cross some of these particular tasks off my list sooner rather than later I felt it best to stay at that bartending job a couple nights a week. As if I had time to spare originally- now my free time will be further limited for a while. I spent most of the summer working two jobs and now it seems to have no end in sight.
In my opinion, being HIV positive creates a barrier in the workplace. There are so many things to consider before walking out on a job that I’m less than satisfied with- especially when their health insurance plan covers my medications one hundred percent. That was the only reason I stayed at a job that I dreaded going to day after day. Unfortunately, until I can get my blood work and hospital bills settled (bills that were not covered by insurance) I feel trapped for a while leaving myself working two jobs. Of course living in one of the largest and most expensive cities in the world never helps.
Stress and fatigue caused from working two jobs will only play against me in fighting HIV. As long as I keep telling myself that it’s only temporary and that I am still young and healthy then it will be okay. Some would relax from these stresses by binge drinking or other bodily irritants that temporarily take the stress away. I turn to my writing to calm me. I sure do miss having more time to my writing and blogging though- it’s only temporary, Christopher.
Perhaps one day soon the price we pay to stay alive won’t be so expensive.