March 1, 2013
Positive since 2012
I am a 24-year old college student living in the suburbs of Austin, Texas. I moved to Sugar Land, Texas in January of 2012 with my boyfriend of five months. He moved to Texas because he wanted a better career opportunity for himself. Me? Well, I had no idea what I was aiming for. Maybe I was attempting to shoot for the moon. I think it was just another chance to see what else was out there. Things were a little rocky for us up north and I was really excited about the new, warmer climate.
Weeks past and he found a great job while I still remained in the illusion of yesterday. There were some tough times, some arguments over petty things that led to disarray. He found a job that would transfer us both into the hills of Austin, Texas. I was excited since Austin had a reputation of being very liberal and was supposedly the most socially accepting area of Texas. We found that moving there and starting a new life was easier than we thought. Our arguing was gone, negative thoughts had vanished. We started to see a future together.
We were out one Saturday evening (which was rare) and had just left a bar. I was a little intoxicated and we were having a great time out on the town. We passed a “testing station” (a bus on the side of the road) and I said to my boyfriend, “Hey, let’s get this crap over with for the year.” He said sure, so we filled out the paperwork. He was first in line and I soon followed after. My boyfriend waited for me outside and I will never forget the look on his face when I came out. We all know that look— the “you’re positive look.” I always got tested every year and had surgery the year prior with clean blood-work. I didn’t believe it at first, so I waited for [confirmation with] the Western Blot test. A week later the Western Blot also came back positive. Oddly, his test came back negative.
I was more confused than ever. Since August 2011, we had been in a completely monogamous relationship and never used protection. Why was I positive and why was he negative? I thought about the three sex partners I’d had in the past year. My boyfriend, the married guy and a bisexual girl I met at a bar in Kansas City. I used protection with the married guy but not with the girl—the worst I thought would happen was she’d get pregnant. I have had sex with a lot of men in my life and enough women to count on two hands, so why now, why this way? I started pleading with any godlike entity that would listen… “Give me cancer, give me syphilis, whatever you want—just please, not HIV”
I stared at the sky each night as I waited on my final lab results from the doctor. Each shooting star was another chance to make it right. I had only known I was HIV positive for less than a month, but I swear it seemed like seven years. HIV had consumed my life.
On day four [of waiting for the results], I thought about how I was nervous about my first HIV test in 2005. I freaked out waiting for the results and prayed that I wouldn’t be positive. On day eight, I flashed back to 2006 when I knew I messed up. I got this really nice guy that loves me. Please don’t let me be positive, please! On day twelve, it’s 2007 and I was afraid the man I love is bringing someone else into our lives. I hope its OK… On day sixteen, it’s 2008 and I remember thinking, if he’s not going to get tested, I’ll just do it for the both of us. On day twenty, it’s 2009, I am moving back to the east coast alone. Please let me go clean, and in good health. On day twenty-four, its 2010 and things didn’t work out so I’m back where I started. I’ve only been with a couple people. What’s this rash? It has to be HIV—please don’t let it be HIV. On day twenty-eight, its 2011 and I have to have surgery. A month later, it’s 2012 and I get to know what it says for real this time. Is it a false positive? Is it cancer? Is it HIV or something else?
I never really appreciated all the things my friends told me. I guess maybe I thought I was invincible or something. In a weird way, I figured I was blessed because of all the bad things that had happened in my life. I figured, “Hey, I have to have some luck because of all this destruction I’ve dealt with.” I was wrong. In the end, I realized, this could have happened to me in 2005 when I was waiting for my first test results and scared, alone at seventeen. Unfortunately, for some people it does.
I haven’t felt any symptoms of this disease and I’m optimistic. There are so many new things being researched in HIV. Knowing my status and reading other testimonials have encouraged me to change majors. I am currently a student, pursuing a degree in microbiology. So one day, if good news of a cure ever comes, I can stand among my colleagues with the rest of the world and say, “We found it…”
What three adjectives best describe you?
Charismatic, eager and proactive
What is your greatest achievement?
Not dying too early
What is your greatest regret?
Running away from my past
What keeps you up at night?
The hopes of tomorrow
What is the best advice you ever received?
Don't let those bastards get you down
What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
This kid that was born with it from New Hampshire on a video I once watched.
What drives you to do what you do?
What is your motto?
Look at the trees, they know they're not going anywhere; but that doesn't stop them from growing.
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
Peregrine Falcon, so I could chase the daylight
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Search: Jarlath Healy, Jonestown, Texas
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