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What it's like to be told by your doctor you have HIV/AIDS

February 7, 2015, 8:38 pm | This story has an Influence Score of 471

By @mariocantin

Written by Anonymous -- originally posted on Quora.com

In October 2011, I graduated university and moved to Spain to teach English and to improve my fluency in Spanish. Come mid-December, I'd been told that I was HIV+. I'd come here from a small town in Louisiana. I was 24 and living in a small, grey, rainy city in northern Spain. Things got dark quickly.  

Being a bit naive, my previous opinion of HIV was that it was only a problem for gays, addicts and Africans. At the risk of generalizing, I'd say that the majority of Americans share this opinion. Imagine my surprise when a foreign doctor looked up at me with the results of a routine check-up (but actually my first blood test in years) and said in Spanish, "your cholesterol is fine, blood pressure good, but it appears that you're HIV+."

"Perdon, puedes repetir, por favor?" I asked him, thinking that I had misunderstood.

He said it again and my heart lurched into overdrive. He told me not to worry, that things are different nowadays and that the medicine would secure me a more or less normal life. He said not to freak out and tell my family and friends yet; that the best thing to do was keep it to myself until I saw a specialist. I floated out of the office and biked to work to teach 3 hours of class. Actually teaching those classes was one of the hardest experiences of my life. I excused myself during the first one to go to the bathroom, look at myself in the mirror, and silently scream. In my reflection, I saw those 3 capital letters etched across my forehead. 

I had to wait a week to get an appointment with the specialist. I spent that time locked in my room searching the internet for comfort and enlightenment but found only paranoia and despair and even begin subscribing to denialist theories. This was all barely 3 months after uprooting myself to move halfway across the world. It got dark around 6 then, it rained a lot, and I didn't have anyone to confide in. I locked myself in my cold, damp room and held on tight. Would I ever tell my family? How did I get it? How was I going to understand the specialist when my Spanish was intermediate at best? My mind raced in circles, tied itself in knots and never turned off. Was it my ex-girlfriend of 2 years? Was it the Turkish girl that I'd slept with only once, with a condom, in August?

I finally told a co-worker of mine. She was a nice woman that let me stay with her my first couple of weeks in the city. She was sympathetic and understanding. I didn't like burdening her with my problem, but I desperately needed the help. She hugged me after and I felt good momentarily. We went to the specialist a few days later. I didn't understand much of what was said, but what I came out understanding was that I had to have confirmatory blood work done before my fate could be sealed. My friend was optimistic and assured me that the analysis would prove that it was all a big mistake. Problem is this was right before Christmas break and I had already planned a trip to southern Spain. No matter though, because they had to ship the blood sample to Barcelona and the results wouldn't arrive until after the holidays.

Bathed in sun and in good company, I used my time down south to make peace with the possibility that I would be positive. I decided that I would move to Europe, thanks to my dual citizenship, and never tell my family the truth. I would stay here where things are better accepted in Sweden and where the healthcare is cheaper and in many respects better. I found peace in thinking that far worse things could have happened to me and do happen to other people everyday. I thought about dedicating my life to helping those people. I dreaded having to take medicine everyday. I saw the Alhambra and gazed awestruck at the detail and beauty of it all and told myself that I could still sculpt my life in a similar way.

January 12th I went to the receptionist's window at the hospital and picked up the results. No one came out to talk to me or read them with me, so i stepped out into the sun and walked a bit first, ready for the worst. Inside the envelope was just one page and the results column had only 3 words printed, "No se detectan." I jumped for joy and talked to myself in English and paced in circles. I came unstuck in time and began to see clearly again. It had all been a big mistake. I was too ecstatic for a month to think about getting a second confirmation. Three months later, though, i got the results of the second Western Blot and it was Negative. I felt re-born, but didn't want to forget what i had lived through. Was there a lesson to be learned? could i take something useful away form it all?

I definitely have a greater appreciation now for the small joys, for living and for relationships. It took me some time to feel comfortable with girls again, as i had tried to shut my mind off to them when i was convinced that i was positive. It also took some time to shake the hypochondria that consumed me at that time. I still get flashbacks of it. I still live here in Spain and think about visiting that doctor and asking him why he most likely altered my perspective on life by telling me the results of and ELSA before confirming with a Western Blot. In some ways, though, i thank him for giving me such insight and compassion for the millions that weren't as lucky as I was, and that have taken many more steps into the darkness than i had to take, but that i have hopefully found the sun shining on the other side. Because in the end, HIV is only one of many horrible things that can happen to a person in their lifetime, and i feel much better prepared to deal with what comes my way next. I applaud you Gary, and everyone else, and hope that you have found the right relationships to give you comfort and balance, because with my imperfect insight into your world i feel confident that that is the most important thing to recover.

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Source: www.quora.com. Link: http://www.quora.com/What-is-it-like-to-find-out-you-have-HIV-AIDS

Republished with permission, as per Quora's Terms of Service, under the subsection titled, "Quora's Licenses to You".

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