September 6, 2013
High Point, North Carolina
Positive since 2004
After my diagnosis in 2004, I felt I was on a downward spiral. Things would go OK for a while then all of a sudden the rug would be ripped out from under me and I would be at rock bottom again. Sometimes it was my own fear of HIV that caused the fall.
Over the years I have experienced many emotions. In 2011, I became ill. I ignored it and tried to finish school because I didn't want to admit that I was getting sick. I wasn't on any meds at the time and was beginning to get scared.
I finally went to the ER in November 2011 after trying to deal with the pain. I was hardly able to walk. During the next 24-hour period I really found out who my friends were. I also found out the man who I thought cared about me, left me without so much as a phone call. I didn’t hear from him again.
My mom was there. She helped me get through that first night. I went through a battery of tests including a spinal tap. It was probably one of the worst experiences of my life. I didn’t know if I would make it through the night. Seeing my mother cry was the worst. But through faith and prayer I made it through. I was able to graduate on time that December with a diploma in nursing.
I was still in recovery so I took some time to figure out who I really was. In February 2012 I competed and won Mr. South Carolina Unlimited Cub 2012. It was an amazing time for me. I spent the year using my state level title to educate my peers about HIV. I found that many younger, gay males didn't have the information that they needed. I began receiving emails about how these men looked up to me as a survivor and how they realized there is life after an HIV diagnosis.
In April 2012 I lost a dear friend and mentor. To this day, I feel her presence with me. She would call me whenever I was sick just to talk. She’d tell me that I had to fight—if not for myself, then for those that would be sad if I left this world, for those that need a voice. I didn’t know it at the time but I would soon become a mentor to those young men like she was to me. I appreciate and love her dearly.
My friends at Appalachian State University asked me to speak at their World AIDS Day event. Ironically, the day I went to speak was the one-year anniversary of my hospitalization. I was amazed to see people were really interested in what I had to say. That was the first time I told my story—a story of heartbreak and pain. Some of my closest friends were at the event and it became difficult to speak. Although they had been around me all these years, they didn't know my inner struggles of trying to accept my HIV. That was the day that I let everything out.
I am now the current reigning Mr. Diamond Glam 2013 and am using my title to raise awareness. I want the world to know the face of HIV/AIDS is not a skinny (although I am), sickly individual. We are your sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles.
What three adjectives best describe you?
Shy, caring, interesting
What is your greatest achievement?
Graduating from nursing school
What is your greatest regret?
Not stepping up and getting educated about this disease sooner
What keeps you up at night?
Thinking of the future. Wondering where life will take me next
If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
The insomnia. And the stigma
What is the best advice you ever received?
FIGHT FOR LIFE!!!
What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
There are so many to choose from. If I have to pick just one I'm going to say Pedro Zamora.
What drives you to do what you do?
Knowing there are others that feel the pain and loneliness that I have felt and sometimes still feel. We all need a shoulder to cry on, someone to listen and someone to uplift us.
What is your motto?
Let's get it!
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?
Giraffe. They have always fascinated me. They’re tall and quirky—just like me.
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