This June, I turn 39. As I creep ever upward in years, I am tempted to lie about my age. But then I think about how hard I fight each day to stay on the planet, and it seems wrong not to acknowledge having made it this far.

When I was diagnosed, ten years ago, I was told I had two years to live. I balanced out the difficulty of facing death with the relief of knowing I’d escape the hardships of old age—wrinkles, osteoporosis, loneliness, losing my teeth, losing my mind.

It was a big adjustment, postprotease, to face the prospect of longevity all over again. Part of me wanted to stay pretty by dying young. It seems absurd, but I did such a good job convincing myself that it was OK to die that I had a hard time getting used to the idea of living again.

So every year on my birthday, when my vanity collides with my gratitude, I take a deep breath and give thanks for having lived long enough to get gray hair.

June also marks the 25th birthday of the discovery of AIDS. My wish as I blow out the candles this year? That we all live long enough to ignite a four-alarm fire on our collective birthday cakes. And that the candles on HIV’s cake are extinguished—once and for all.