POZ Stories : Natasha Io

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April 19, 2013

Natasha Io

Melbourne, Australia
Positive since 2008

My Thai transgendered partner and I were both diagnosed with AIDS in Thailand a day apart in mid 2008. She had stopped going to work for nearly a month and her sudden weight loss made me make her go for an HIV test. The doctors said we both must have had the virus for at least 5 years. How could we have it for so long and not know? Local hospitals in Bangkok refused to help her and she was forced to go back to her home province to access a hospital there.

By the time I saw what kind of place that so-called hospital was, it was too late. I was also losing weight quickly and was getting sick myself. The AIDS virus killed her on August 17, 2008. She died in her family home in Wanon Niwat without me there. There was nothing I could do at the time as I was in a hospital in Bangkok with PCP pneumonia. It didn’t kill me, but I was cheated out of attending her funeral because when I was discharged from hospital I could not walk without assistance and my weight had dropped to 48kgs and my CD4 count was 23. She is never far from my thoughts and I travelled at least twice a year up to Wanon Niwat in Northeastern Thailand to tidy her burial chedi.  

I stayed in Thailand until February 2012. I got on with my life. For someone so sick, I became incredibly fit. But for two years my life was a revolving door of strange illnesses, rashes and hospital visits, including two bouts of deep vein thrombosis. My CD4 count is never much higher than 200. The cheap ARVs I took for the first two years did as much damage as the virus. It’s ironic that both of us ended up being on death’s door at the same time. But somehow my reprieve has done nothing to console me the last four years. To be honest I have really had enough.  

I thought a change might help so I went back to Australia. After ten years of being away it is like an alien country to me. I have  not worked for six months due to all of the rules and regulations here. Coming back here was a big mistake. New jobs, new location, nothing takes away the pain. My psychiatrist calls it "Survivor Guilt." For me, death to me seems to me more of a release than an end. I wait knowing that each day brings me again closer to her.

What three adjectives best describe you?
Intuitive, empathetic, spiritual

What is your greatest achievement?
Finally living as the person I am meant to be  

What is your greatest regret?
Losing my soul mate  

What keeps you up at night?
Nothing—by 10pm it’s time for bed. But if I’m working on something that I am passionate about, that keeps me up  

If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
Wished I had the knowledge I have now to have saved my other half from corrupt, incompetent Thai doctors  

What is the best advice you ever received?
Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. —Dr. Seuss  

What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
Anyone with the strength to speak out about being positive  

What is your motto?
In the midst of this world, we stroll along the roof of hell, gawking at flowers. —Haiku Poem  

If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
The remains of my dear departed other half  

If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
A cat, but why do I need a reason?



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