So HIV doesn’t define you but your username is HIVpositiveViralLoadCD4 ? Well, that makes sense…
You want to see a short answer page on Google? Try « HIV defines me ». It’ll come up with 5 results. Five. FIVE. On Google. Out of those, 3 are along the lines of « I don’t think that HIV defines me ».
Let’s now try « HIV doesn’t define me ». Oh, wow, 18,500 hits.
For a while, I thought I was part of the 18k. I had convinced myself that HIV would not, had not impacted on my life. I was to carry on living pretty much like I had before. I would not be different because of it. I would be the same old me.
But like a puppy dragged to a puddle of wee in the living room, some mistakes you only realise after being told so.
I got grabbed by the neck and dragged to the living room of cyberspace for that epiphany a few months back when I told my (then) boyfriend about my Twitter account and this blog. Clever as he is, a minute hadn’t passed by before he asked the question that stuck with me for a while: « So, all this… It’s like HIV defines you, don’t you think? »
I babbled out that I was barely using Twitter or this blog; that it was nice to have them but that they were not vital, merely a way to keep up with research and connect with people sharing a similar experience. And it is the case.
But as days and weeks went by, the penny dropped. Of course HIV defines me, at least parts of me. Despite not being ‘out’ to most, I know more about HIV today than I did yesterday. I blog about HIV, I tweet about HIV, I take a pill every night, I look after myself a bit more than I used to, I correct my friends when they talk shit about HIV.
Let’s face it, many people involved with HIV were not that bothered before they, or someone they know, got infected (bar maybe the medical world.) Of course not everyone dealing with HIV is positive, but many only considered it in the aftermaths of their diagnosis. I, for one, now volunteer for charities I had only vaguely heard of before.
Nothing to shy away from.
HIV defines me and there’s nothing wrong about it. It doesn’t define me as much as, say, my nationality or my taste in music, but it is part of my life and part of what made me the person I am today.
Of course that doesn’t mean everything I say or do is linked to the disease. Pigeonholing myself into an everything-is-about-HIV-don’t-you-get-it mode wouldn’t reflect reality either; but pretending it hasn’t changed the way I see things would be foolish:
-Exercise? Well, got to move a bit more now. What’s that? My combination therapy might lead to man-boobs? Fuck that. Hmm, but I guess it’s also about the…
-Food? Well, got to look into that now. Especially 2 hours before bedtime to avoid messing up with the…
-Meds, you said? Well, talking about them, have I taken them today? Yesterday? What’s the aim anyway? Oh yes, being healthier and aiming to be undetectable. That could mean safer…
-Sex? Well, got to look what I do now. I sure wouldn’t want to pass on the virus to anyone. That’s on the back of my mind and can put a strain on…
-Relationships? Dating surely isn’t quite the same as it used to be (although thankfully I haven’t many bad reactions there.) Because of course, HIV does also define me in the eyes of the rest of the world, forgetting the diversity of the HIV+ pool.
HIV defines how some people see me or think of me. It can be hard to affect this.
Fortunately, some things remain.
HIV hasn’t changed whom I hang out with. HIV hasn’t changed where I go or what I do. I am not trying to get an HIV-related job or role of any kind. Most of the time, I even forget about it. But it’s there and, as far as I can tell for now, it’s not going anywhere.
Want to know something that does NOT define me? Being left-handed.
I don’t think I’ll ever feel the urge to read, write, tweet about that. Probably because it’s not relevant to how I live my life.