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I need help!

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This may be a long post, I don't know.  I was just diagnosed with HIV a little over a month ago.  I am 24 year old black male.  My doctor called and told me over the phone and I took it better than I thought I would.  I didn't break down but I did have to cancel the plans I had that evening and the next day, just to ensure that I was okay.  Over the last month I have been doing my research about HIV and coming to terms with my diagnosis.  From my recollection, I was infected 3 years ago, right after college graduation at a point in time when I was extremely confused and vulnerable to a lot of behaviors and activities that before then and since I have no desire to partake in.  But I'm not even mad at myself for putting myself in the position to get this, as funny as that sounds.  I thought I would be lamenting my bad choices at a young age and the person who i contracted from, but I haven't (yet).  I have always had a take charge, "get it done", "this is what I have to deal with, so deal with it" kind of attitude.  Even when I went back for blood work 3 weeks ago, I was fine.  I hate doctors and needles and blood, but I pulled through okay. 
Now, today, I got the results back from my doctor.  And from my understanding they are good results.  CD4 500, 30%, VL 212K.  I AM COMPLETELY FLOORED. I don't feel sick or anything, but I am frightened to death.
I want to live, but what is life living with this disease?  I am 24, I haven't even fully started my career yet.  I haven't told my parents, which I assume I'll do once I get my emotions under a little more control.  Right now I don't want to tell them at all, but I don't know if I can go a lifetime without letting them know something like this.  But because I am black and within a black community that is a lot less understanding and informed about this disease, not telling them might be better for them in the longrun.  I don't know. 
Then the drugs!  I'm at a point where I'm probably going to start seriously thinking about treatment.  I hate the idea of relying on drugs (not to mention the American healthcare system) to sustain my life.  And how long will they work?  The anxiety of constantly worrying about whether your regimen will fail or if HIV will mutate or if you will live long enough for a next set of drugs is debhilitating.  Will HIV kill me in the next 50 years, 30, 15, 5?  I feel like I am going to die in the next hour.
And if I do live, can I have a career?  Can I have a family?  Dating is hard enough, let alone telling people your status.  Who will want me with HIV infection?  Will I die poor, on the streets, with no retirement money or inadequate healthcare?
Will I ever have sex again?  Right now it feels like the dirty deed that has left me scared and depressed.  Will I ever be able to enjoy it again?
Disclosure.  I haven't told anyone yet.  My friends are stilling treating me the same, family. I am still getting hit on.  All that will change once I become "the friend with HIV" or "the son with HIV".  I want to tell people, I don't want to keep this a secret, but being "that", I think, would kill me.  I've never wanted special attention for anything; whether because I was black, young, attractive, smart, whatever.  And HIV will become my adjective.  An adjective that no one will be able to overcome.  Even though I now have the disease, I, at times find myself separating myself from it.  Not on purpose, but kind of second hand.  It's like everyone is telling me the sky is blue, but I see purple.
My head hurts and I need to take a nap.  I feel (emotionally) horrible.  So for those of you who sat through this long post, I'm sorry, I just very confused and needed to get some of this out to someone, because right now I don't know what I'm doing or what to do.  (I'm crying right now for the first time since I've found out)
I need to stop writing for now.  But I'll be back later.

Hey B,

I can understand your frustrations and fears.  Everyone goes through that.  In time you will see that provided you make some adjustments to your life (like focusing on your health, visiting your doctor every 3 months and the times come for meds, taking them on time and every day) your life can be normal. 

--- Quote ---I want to live, but what is life living with this disease?  I am 24, I haven't even fully started my career yet.  I haven't told my parents, which I assume I'll do once I get my emotions under a little more control.
--- End quote ---
You can still work and be HIV positive.  Plenty of people are able to, including me.  Being HIV positive doesn't necessarily mean you can not work.  Fact is you are recently infected so you will have access to life-saving meds that can not only stop the virus in its track but meds that can be tolerated (for the most part) enough to allow you to continue to work.  Will everyday be a walk in the park?  Nope.  But on balance things are much better in terms of being HIV positive than they were in the past.

No rush in telling anyone.  Tell them when you are ready.  You should reach out to your local HIV organization for help and guidance (even a support group).

Oh and welcome!!!!


P.S.- Your numbers aren't that bad.  Your immune system is holding up pretty well.

oh and....

--- Quote ---And if I do live, can I have a career?
--- End quote ---
Yes you will live and yes you can have a career.  It's up to you.

--- Quote ---Can I have a family?
--- End quote ---
Yes.  HIV doesn't prevent you from getting married.  You can always adopt or have children via other means, should you choose to.

--- Quote ---Who will want me with HIV infection?
--- End quote ---
Not all negative people are disinterested in dating positive people.  Plus you can always simply date people are HIV positive.

--- Quote ---Will I die poor, on the streets, with no retirement money or inadequate healthcare?
--- End quote ---
Don't know.  Do any of us know that?  BUT there are things you can do, that everyone should do (HIV positive or not), to safeguard their future.  Including continuing to invest in your retirement plan.  Making sure you are always aware of your health insurance options (whether or not you are working, on disability, etc..).  These are things we and your local AIDS service organization can help with.

--- Quote ---Will I ever have sex again?
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---Will I ever be able to enjoy it again?
--- End quote ---

Hi B,

Welcome to the Living with HIV Forum, and to this family.

Well, thanks to Cliff, our very upstanding African American Career person working overseas; I don't have to answer any of your questions.  Please take it easy on yourself, and try to stay away from the dark places.  At some point you are going to have to forgive yourself for this event in your life and move on, but this:
--- Quote ---I have always had a take charge, "get it done", "this is what I have to deal with, so deal with it" kind of attitude.
--- End quote ---
will save your life.

As for life expectancy, there is no reason why you should change anything in your life for now, or the near future.  I would however, really think hard about starting medications this early in infection, because you need to have at least two or three labs done before your immune system levels out and you end up with a final measurement.  This is a very s...........l.............0.............w  disease in it's progression, and to make any decisions yet about therapy would not be prudent.

As for me, you can see I have been living with this bug for the whole time you have been on the planet; almost anyway, so you have nothing to fear at this point, except misinformation.  Please be sure your HIV Doctor is proficient, as many are not and they tend to give information that the Drug Companies give them, rather than checking the science and doing the right thing for you. 

Good luck, and I look forward to your participation here.

In Love and Support.

Hi B,

I can understand your concerns and questions. I was diagnosed just five months ago.  Although I'm older and in the middle of my career many of the same questions came to my mind. I still struggle with some of them  and I also understand the anxiety.  The first step it to just take it easy.  Don't get all wrapped up in the future.  Take care of today.

First of all, things are so much better today than they were even a decade ago.  Having HIV is no picnic and the meds can be a bear sometimes, but they do provide hope.  Depending on meds for the rest of your life isn't all that unusual.  Lots of people have to take hypertension medications daily to lower the risk of heart attack and/or stroke.  You just have to take them for a different reason.  

Your life can go on very normal.  Alll of the things you have hoped for and dreamed about are possible.  Part of it is up to you and how you handle things.  Dating, sex, a family, a career... all of that is possible.  My doctors tell me that with good compliance to the meds that I have as much of a chance to live a normal lifespan as anyone.  We never know what might come our way.  But I"m told that I will most likely die from something totally unrelated to HIV.  And then we can always count on new discoveries, new medications, and maybe even a cure.  

In terms of disclosure, it took me some time.  I had two good friends that I told the first day and then anyone I has been with recently.  After that, it took me over a month before I told anyone else.  I finally told family and they have been very supportive.  The friends I have told have been a mixed bag.  Some of them I never hear from now.  That was a bit disappointing but it happens.  Disclosure was a good release for me.  I found that I needed to do that.

Anyway, hope this helps some.  There is  life after HIV. There are a lot of concerns and questions and a lot of unknown.  But I"m told that with time, things do return somewhat to normal and you can have a high quality of life for a long time with proper medical care.


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