Yesterday, I was told I tested positive for HIV.
I was called into the doctor’s office, after having blood drawn for my Peace Corps end-of-service physical, and was told I tested positive for HIV.
I sat there still, hearing the words be replayed in my head. I was told I tested positive for HIV.
How? The doctor asked if I had taken part in any potentially risky behaviors. Unprotected sex? Sex with high-risk partners? Intravenous drug use?
Then the doctor said, “Maybe it was your cut that was stitched in the local hospital… if sterile material wasn’t used. Its unlikely, but I just don’t know. Tyler, are you ok? You’re not reacting how I thought you would, how I would. What are you thinking? Do you have any questions?”
I had no questions. Then I had a million questions and was unable to process anything. I had tested positive for HIV.
Today, I was told I was told that the first test was a false positive. A second more extensive test declared that I was negative for HIV. Some people see their life flash before their eyes, snapshots of their past, when they have a near death experience. I actually had this happen once, in middle school, when I stepped out in front of a bus and had the bus shoot past me, inches away. This time, however, I slowly saw my future life be projected in front of me. What was going to happen? How would I now live my life?
I spent 24 hours on edge, planning a new life. Preparing to manage a disease that would eventually claim my life. With the end more near, I began to be more aware of the present. As all this reflection was taking place behind my eyes, I was keeping this a secret from all but one person in whom I had confided in for support and guidance. You have no idea how much HIV/AIDS can come up in conversation. Four different times last night HIV/AIDS was jokingly brought up. Mickey Avalon song. A volunteer humorously commenting that they where clean, as confirmed by their end-of-service medical exam. My exam did not yield the same results. I sat there smiling, laughed, and died inside.
I was going to die. I thought I was going to die. We all know we’re going to die but one’s end is normally not so present.
As I said already, today, I was told the first test was a false positive. I don’t have HIV. I don’t have HIV. When I heard the news, every emotion I had been keeping at bay sprang forth at once. My life had been reset. Renewed. I couldn’t stand. My heart raced and I felt clean healthy blood, life, be pumped out and back from the crown of my head to my toes.
In 24 hours, I processed more than I have in months. I discovered what was important to me and was surprised by what immediately fell off my radar once I was confronted with a life altering challenge. I could go on about what I realized in this deeply trying experience, but I want to keep things short. I want to go out and live. Take this renewed energy and run with it. And more urgently, I’m going to go get a beer.