POZ Stories : Donnie Hamilton

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March 29, 2013

Donnie Hamilton

Longview, Texas
Positive since 1995

I was in the US Army when they told me I was HIV positive (on April 13, 1995—Friday the 13th!). I was bounced from unit to unit because none of the units wanted the stigma of having a soldier who was HIV positive.

I went through hell for almost four months before they finally let me go. I served eight years and have all sorts of commendations and never caused trouble. I was surprised at the way they treated me. A female Colonel sat behind her desk all high and mighty and said to me, “Did you expect to test positive for HIV?” I replied, "Who in the hell expects to test positive?”

When they told me, there were six other people in the room, which I thought violated my privacy. I was told to pack my bags, go back home and plan my funeral. As I sit here typing this 17 years later, I am still doing fine. I am healthy, except for COPD, which I got from living in an apartment that had black mold. It caused two lesions to appear in my left lung. It has not affected my HIV. My CD4 count is 896 and my viral load has been undetectable for over eight years!

What three adjectives best describe you?
Determined, stubborn, driven  

What is your greatest achievement?
My military service  

What is your greatest regret?
Not dealing with my inner struggles and becoming addicted to meth...I have been clean and sober now for 7 1/2 years  

What keeps you up at night?
My COPD and coughing at times, but never worries about being positive!  

If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
To have a place to live that is mold free and that has only HIV-positive people living in the complex. No one really understands what we go through like others living with HIV.  

What is the best advice you ever received?
That I am not HIV, it is something that I have and live with, it does not define, nor does it dictate my life!  

What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
Wendell Hicks. He worked at Special Health Resources of East Texas for years. He is now working in Arizona. I am so proud of him, the work he has done and continues to do.  

What drives you to do what you do?
People telling me no, or that I can't do something.....I am just stubborn that way. After all I am a Leo!  

What is your motto?
Live your life. It is yours to live. Don't let others dictate what you do, how you dress and who you love. Don't hide in a closet, take off the door off and be seen and be heard, as only we as a people can.  

If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
Family photos and my grandmother's bible  

If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
I would be a lion, because they are majestic, strong and fast, but have such a wonderful demeanor about them.

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