Abbotsford, British Columbia
Positive since 2013
In 1990, my brother took his life. I was devastated. I drank and did drugs and really didn’t care what happened to me. I did things that were utterly crazy to some people. When I finally sobered up, I realized I was in a toxic marriage, but I had my three beautiful kids. So I worked full-time—sometimes two jobs—to support them. I loved my family. However, it was pretty rough having a marriage where two people weren’t on the same page. We eventually decided I should get my own place for a while.
My wife and I had broken up again. I was living on my own while working and trying to fix my marriage. We had a rocky relationship and three kids, and we had been through a lot. I had finally quit drinking and drugging four years earlier. I thought I had finally found a reason to live.
I started getting really sick and having night sweats. In the middle of summer, I was freezing. I would puke in the mornings. I barley ate, and I had no appetite. I would get these awful head rushes when I stood up. I was losing weight fast, and I couldn’t stay awake for longer then half an hour. I felt as though I never slept at all. I could not work anymore. I kept going to the doctor to ask questions: “What are these sores around my mouth?” “What is on my toes?” “Why am I impotent?” “Why do my muscles hurt so bad?” My joints ached. I was too weak and sick to work.
August 22, 2013, was the worst day of my life. I was visiting my wife, and the phone rang. It was my doctor. He said I needed to go to the clinic the next day because I was HIV positive. I was devastated. My wife screamed, and she took all the kids to get tested at once. I thought of jumping off a bridge.
I collapsed on the floor that evening. When I went to get a drink of water, I just blacked out. I laid on the floor, at my wife’s feet—I’m not sure for how long. When I came to and asked what happened, she just looked at me. She had a terrified look in her eyes, and she said you need to go to the hospital. My dad drove me there.
I told the doctors that I had HIV and what happened to me. They said I wouldn’t be going home for a while. They started all sorts of tests. My CD4 count was 50. My viral load was 550,000. I had some fungus growing on my heart. A valve wasn’t working properly. They said I was too weak to operate on. They gave me antibiotics to try to kill the fungus. I felt like a pincushion. All sorts of stuff was being pumped into me. By the time they figured out what meds to give me, my CD4 had fallen to 18. My eyes had sunk into my head. I looked like a skeleton. My skin was so pale. My voice changed, and it sounded weak and frail. My hair was falling out, my body was shutting down and my brain didn’t work very well either. I asked the doctor, “Am I going to die?” He said “Maybe.” He said that I was too weak to operate on and that if I believed in God, it would be a good idea to pray.
I had a pastor come to pray with me there. I had people coming to say their goodbyes. I was so close to death. I wasn’t sure when I closed my eyes if I would wake up. I kept thinking of my kids. I can’t leave them like this. I wanted to live, to be a father and to raise my kids so they didn’t have to go through the hell I did. That’s what kept me going. My kids and God. I was in the hospital for 22 days. The HIV meds were working. My immune system was shot, but I was alive still. I had AIDS dementia complex, and I was messed up. I couldn’t remember the pin number for my bank card. I could not drive. I could barely walk. I shook violently. I had muscle spasms all the time, twitching and sweating like crazy at night. I would wake up with these horrible cramps, covered in sweat, and had fevers every night. It took a couple of months before my voice was normal.
My wife moved me back into the house for a bit. She is also HIV positive but healthy. My kids are negative. Thank God. I recovered enough to go back to work after about five months. That’s when my wife told me to take my AIDS and get out. I got my own place again and have been trying to cope and deal with life.
My wife moved on. She’s got a new man in her life, and the kids live with her. I don’t blame her at all. We got a divorce. I don’t really understand how this could be “positive,” but maybe in time, I will. I am here for a reason. God has a plan. I just have to believe. I am still clean and sober. I have AIDS, and I’m still alive. I get to be a father for another day, and that’s OK with me. I don’t want anyone to go through what I did.
I struggle with the stigma now. It’s a relationship killer. I no longer tell people unless they absolutely need to know.
Life is tough enough, but when you mention you have HIV, well, you end up alone.
What adjectives best describe you?
Sober. Survivor. Soldier. I feel like I’ve been through a war.
What is your greatest achievement?
Not giving up.
What is your greatest regret?
Where to begin?
What keeps you up at night?
If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
What is the best advice you ever received?
Where attention goes, energy flows.
What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
The people on the front lines. All who help fight our fight.
What drives you to do what you do?
The desire for a better life.
What is your motto?
To love and be loved.
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?
A cat because they got it made.