March #142 : Consider the Alternative - by Anna Heath

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Table of Contents

The Long Haul

Native Soul

The POZ Diabetes Diet Makeover

Quitting Time

Boosting Immunity

Caffeine Fix

Staph Memo

Same Sheets, Different Day

Consider the Alternative

Flunking Math

Test Drive

Stage Fright

The New 90210?

Post It!

Nobody’s Foo

Media Police

HIV 101

Boston Latex

Getting Graphic

Power Surge

Inside the Box

Diagnosis: Stigma


Mailbox-March 2008

Editor's Letter-March 2008

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

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March 2008

Consider the Alternative

by Anna Heath

AIDS has affected my entire adult life. I’m pretty sure I’ve had HIV since 1986, when I was 18. But I didn’t get tested until 1991, when my boyfriend died. I’m glad for people who pose for posters saying “I refuse to let HIV define who I am.” But there were too many years when I thought I was about to die from HIV for it not to have formed who I’ve become.

When I turned 40, last year, I had a routine mammo-gram. The doctor said I had what was probably a fibroadenoma—a common, benign tumor. I could schedule a biopsy or promise to return in six months to see if it had changed. I didn’t go back, and I don’t want to. The reason I don’t want to is, I’m sure, taboo to say (and obviously irrational): I like the idea of potentially dying of breast cancer. The prospect is profoundly relieving. It makes me feel “normal” that I could die of something I developed rather than something I acquired. It makes me feel feminine, that my sexual identity counts, that the damage would be validated.

I have worked most of my life to make the best of having AIDS, in very matter-of-fact ways. So I was shocked at how the prospect of an alternative demise exacerbates my feelings of contamination and exclusion with HIV, feelings I didn’t know I still have to such a degree. I don’t mean to dismiss the suffering and experiences of the men and women who have died or are living with breast cancer. But I have feelings of affection for my little lima-bean-shaped tumor of light on the sonogram screen. It is, for me, a symbol of redemption.

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