Saturday, January 30, 2010

Welcome Students!

I unabashedly and without a second thought stole an idea that I found on Brian's site ( I am now a blogging "case study" (I prefer mentor) to four students taking a course (some are on line, some are live) in HIV/AIDS called HIV Disease: A Human Concern. The students have created blogs especially for the class. Every week they receive an assignment, I assume a topic to blog about, which they must post by Wednesday. By Friday, they must comment on their group member's blogs as well as this one. I'm pretty sure that's how it works anyway. If I've misunderstood I'll find out soon enough.

My role in this is to post content to this blog about HIV/AIDS and my experiences, opinions, social and medical issues that revolve around HIV. If you are thinking that that's pretty much what I do already, you are starting to understand why I was so attracted to the idea. If nothing else, I'll increase my tens of readership by four. Five if you count the teacher.

Besides, I would like nothing more than to have a forum and a resource to discuss HIV and the impact (or lack thereof) it has on the lives of young people in this country. What do they think today about HIV? What do they know? Where do they get their information and what do they believe about HIV+ people? Questions questions I have lots of them.

So I thought by way of introduction I would start back at the beginning. I began writing From The Ashes in 2003, about a month after I was diagnosed with HIV. I was 41 years old. At the time, I thought it would be a good outlet for some of the confusion and uncertainty I was feeling around becoming positive, as well as a place to be honest about what had gone on in my life up until then. While I thought at the time I was being completely honest, as it turns out, I was lying to myself about one or two important things. But that's another story.

I have reprinted below a (slightly edited) blog entry from April, 2003 that I think has a great deal of significance. It details the chaos and confusion that many many people that are diagnosed with HIV suddenly are thrust in to. It's a world of blood tests and doctor's appointments and T-Cell counts that most people are unprepared for. The maelstrom eventually abates, but it's an area I have been urging case managers here at my clinic to try to understand better. I'm not sure if I'm being heard.

March 7, 2003

That was the title I was originally going to call this blog. At the time, I thought that it was the most significant date in my life. Now I'm not so sure. I'm a 41 year old gay man living in NYC. On March 7, 2003 I learned I was HIV positive. That was quite possibly the hardest sentence I've ever typed. Not because of the HIV admission, but now everyone will know I'm 41! I had to do it. I made a promise to myself that I was going to really commit to this blog and use it to help me get through my new challenges. I've spent a large portion of my life obscuring, ignoring and avoiding the truth or some truths. I'd like to say I'm done doing that but I'd be lying again. I'm going to try as hard as I can to be brutally honest in this chronicle. Not just with you but with myself. I'm hoping that I can see once and for all where I came from and why. The future we'll discover together. I want to take you with me on this journey.

I'll start with the whole HIV thing since it was the catalyst for me to begin the blog and I'm sure it will come up again and again on here. It's been just over a month since I was diagnosed. I'm sure some people will tell you about how stunned they were and how they cried for a week after the diagnosis but that never happened to me. When I decided to finally be tested after all these (15!) years in New York City I was fully aware of the possibility that I could get a positive diagnosis. Of course, I was hoping I wouldn't, but still... It's like all the years of sex and sex parties and boothstores and escorts and masseurs and escort/masseurs (do I sense a theme?) was I just having unprotected sex with everyone who came along? Of course not. But I've never been at all what you would call cum-phobic either. Hey, people are, for lack of a better word "juicy" (No, that is the better word) And sex is sticky and juicy (if you do it right) Throw in a healthy dose of low self -esteem, sprinkle on a liberal dusting of depression and there you have me waking up first thing in the morning having really loud sex with a guy whose name escapes me and the words "condom" or "safe" don't come out of either of our mouths. It happened. Move on.

The surprising part so far for me has been how long it takes to know what's up with yourself after you've been diagnosed. I thought that you go in, give blood, wait a week, you're positive or negative, they give you a sucker and send you on your way. Not so fast though kitten. The diagnosis is just the beginning. Once you find out you're positive then some real fun begins. Apparently, now you have to find out how positive you are. So it's back to the lab but this time they take vials and vials of your blood. I think it was at least six I'm not sure. That day, there was a guy ahead of me who apparently turned white while he was being vamped which sent me into a mild panic as well. So I didn't count all the vials and I looked away and sang something in my head to distract me. And another 14 days go by so you can get your viral load and T-cell count. And that's it? Oh you silly silly soul! Not even close! In my case it was sort of a good news/bad news event. The good news was two-fold. First, according to my blood test, except for the death in my veins I'm healthy as a horse. (Besides that, how did you enjoy the play Mrs. Lincoln?) Second, not having a clue exactly how long I've been infected at this point my test results say I still have enough T-cells and a low enough viral load that I'm "healthy". So as it stands today my "medication" consists of multiple vitamins and trying to stay healthy. So now we know where I stand, right? You so stoopid! No! I had to wait a month and go back to see the blood- suckers and make another donation. Why you may ask? Because they have to get a few sets of tests over a few months to see if I'm deteriorating or maintaining in my condition. In other words I may stay like this for months or six months or years before treatment has to start. Or not. If my system goes wonky progressively I'll have to go on the anti-virals and oh, won't chronic diarrhea be a happy, happy time?

So there you have it. Our jumping off point. I'll tell you about my Dr. visits. I'll tell you secrets about my job. I may write poetry. Sometmes I'll just post an article I like. If I ever have one again I'll be happy to dish on my own love life. That's not an HIV thing it's a I'm a dysfunctional freak thing. Good news is I'm probably going to have to leave the house more, just to keep things interesting. Periodically, I'll post my e-mail address.( If you like what you read so far let me know, I'd love to hear from you. If you want to say something negative shut your hole, I'm not a well woman!

I hope the students get some use out of that, and I would encourage them to post whatever they wish in the comments, about anything I write or post, including questions. If you prefer, feel free to email me anything you would like as well. I will probably always respond here, unless you ask for a private response. There's not much I do that I keep private anymore. Yet another reason I'm perfect for this program.


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