It has been well over 30 years since the first cases of HIV were reported in the United States. According to amFAR There are approximately 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. It is estimated that almost one-fifth (18.1%) of those people don’t know they have it. Since the start of the AIDS epidemic, 1.7 million Americans have been infected with HIV and more than 650,000 have died of AIDS. An estimated 50,000 new HIV infections occur in the U.S. each year. It is further estimated that every nine and half minutes someone in the United States becomes infected with HIV.
Blacks continue to experience the severe burden of HIV and AIDS. They continue to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic accounting for 47% of new HIV infections, although they comprise only 14% of the population. HIV infection rates among Black women are nearly four times highly than those of white women.
We have the knowledge and tools needed to slow the spread of HIV infection and improve the health of people living with HIV. Despite this potential, however, our sense of urgency associated with combating the epidemic appears to be declining leaving our nation at a crossroads.
Given all of this one might ask how someone diagnosed with HIV manages to hold on to any glimmer of hope. How does one try to move on with their life after their diagnoses. In fact, recently someone asked me if there was some magic trick to living with HIV. While smiling, I replied “Yes, there is a trick and it's pretty simple. Just remember to live”
So many people diagnosed with HIV forget the fact that they still have a life to live out. All their hopes, dreams, goals, trips, celebrations and whatever they have planned are still very much possible. The trick is to keep focused on living and enjoying your life and not allowing yourself to be focused on HIV, adherence to care and all else that goes along with HIV. It's so vital that one does not allow their life to be dictated by HIV.
Please dont get me wrong, being diagnosed with HIV or any life threatening disease can be very challenging and many people get knocked off their feet by such a diagnosis. This is why it is so important to right away finding yourself a solid support system. By support system I mean something that encourages your to accept the diagnosis, be adherent to treatment, but most of all be very clear that life still exists and it is worthy to be lived.
What's worked best for me is to surround myself with solid friends who love me. People who want the best for me and people who encourage me to move forward with my life. Now I have to be honest, for me this was sort of a task because when I was diagnosed I was homeless, so there was the entirely separate beast that I was dealing with. Let's face it, homelessness is a state of temporary everything. Each day there's some new challenge that one must deal with. Add to this the diagnosis of being HIV positive and a person is dealing with a great deal all at once.
With homelessness and an HIV diagnosis, I can pretty much assure you there will be some depression to deal with. It may be situational or could be something that requires one to consider taking anti-depressants, but it the midst of any situation it becomes vital that one visual the land while riding through the storm. So very important that one hold on and cling to all the good that still exist of their life. No matter how dark the day or long the night, there is still good in our life and inspire of the rain that makes it so very difficult to see all the beautiful colors that are still present, we must hold on, trust and believe that our life is still worth living.
Simply typing this brings tears to my eyes, but this time around they are not tears from sadness, confusion or doubt, but tears of joy, because as I look back at all that I have come through, all that life has allowed me to experience and endure, I am thankful because my life is in tact and I am still here, still smiling, still giving love and receiving love and my life is richly blessed all because I refused to allow something like HIV to have power of me.
Thursday, April 3, 2014, I celebrated 6 years of LIVING with HIV.