Personal Story One:
•In the summer of 2013, I felt really sick. I obviously let it go way longer then I should have. I thought something was wrong. I let it go because I didn’t want my mom or my boyfriend to know because we already had trust issues.
I had severe cramping pain and there were some days that I couldn’t even get out of bed (which was a big deal because it was summer and gorgeous outside). I started getting sonograms because I thought that I had an ovarian cyst. I went to the family doctor and they sent me to a sonographer. Nobody would tell me what was wrong. I feel that they knew for a while but they kept doing tests externally and I was left in the unknown. While they were waiting for tests, they put me on pills and did not tell me what they were for. Those pills did not help relieve the problem. I think the pills may have been antibiotics. They ended up giving me a shot in my bottom of an antibiotic which finally took the problem away. I later learned that I had Chlamydia.
In the doctor’s office, I felt like they kept pushing birth control because they obviously knew I was sexually active. They also knew that I did not always use protection. I did not want to be on birth control. I felt like they treated me like I was stupid after that. I was not happy that I had it but it did not bother me as much because it was not something worse or lifelong. It definitely made me think about who I was going to sleep with.
I am still not sure how I got this. Up until that summer I got Chlamydia, I was with my boyfriend. We had not dated that long and I was seeing a guy before that. My boyfriend at the time was tested and he did not have this. I also never spoke with the guy I was seeing about this because we stopped talking on a bad note. I did find out that one guy I dated way back in the fall also found out he had this in the summer. I wonder if it could be possible that I got this from him. The doctor said due to the amount of scarring, I had this for a long time but she did not clarify how long that was it. I still don’t know about my fertility or if there are long term affects because the doctor was not very clear. I still have abnormal periods to this date.
Advice that I would give to other individuals is to get tested before you are starting with someone new or before you get that person into anything. I also would tell people to get a checkup if they feel that something was wrong. I would tell people to wear condoms and you can never fully know if your partner is clean, even if you know their history.
Personal Story Two:
• January 3, 2014 was when I got the definitive results of my HIV test. Over a month the before that, I was at a local club’s drag night, and a friend and I decided on a whim to get tested at the Public Health mobile testing bus. Neither of us ever imagined we’d be diagnosed as positive, but we were nervous nonetheless.
We both went in, had our mouth swabbed, and were told it would take 20 minutes for the results. So we sat outside in the cold, chain-smoking cigarettes and joking about what the results would be, but deep down nervous as hell. Neither of us had been tested in over a year.
In high school, I taught comprehensive sexuality education classes at high schools with Planned Parenthood, so I knew better than to go without being tested. But as we all experience at this young age, I felt invincible. It would never happen to me. My friend got his results and was in and out in minutes. My results took longer. I was told my test came back preliminary positive. Because it was a rapid test, they could not say with 100% certainty that I was positive. There was a small small SMALL chance the test was a false positive. I held on to that belief for nearly a month.
I went to public health to get a full test done, and was told my results would be in in two weeks. I waited those two weeks and got a call that my results were in, but by law, they could not be told over the phone, no matter the result. I held on to the belief that I was one of the lucky few to get a false positive. Maybe I was immune? Maybe my blood was the key to the vaccine? Probably not, but that’s better than telling yourself you’ve gotten HIV. After the call that my results were in, I waited two more weeks. I was scared to get the results. Terrified.
On January 3rd, 2014, I asked my sister to take me to public health for my results. My soon-to-be case manager told me I was HIV+ and I pretended everything was fine. In reality, it was fine–for that first 24 hours, before it really hit me. I had my sister come back and meet with my case manager, just so I wasn’t alone, and to allow her a chance to ask her questions. When we left, I made every effort to joke about it. And I did the same for weeks. I hid my fear with humor.
For about two months, it was hard to be alone. I had just moved in with my boyfriend, who was very supportive, but whenever I found myself home alone I would just cry, pity myself, and force my dog to cuddle with me. Penny, my puppy, really did make it all a little easier, but my friends were who kept me sane, happy, and alive. I made a point to surround myself with friends and loved ones and to make sure this secret didn’t stay inside me. I felt numb, day in and day out.
Through meetings with my case manager, I got connected with an HIV specialist and got started on treatment right away. My blood levels weren’t dire, but I saw no sense in waiting for treatment. One day, I decided I needed to take control of it all. I contacted the head of the of our local AIDS project, and asked to meet with him. If I was going to live with this the rest of my life, I was going to do something with it. From there I was eventually voted on to the board of directors. In April I started on medication, and I’ve not had a single side effect since. In August, I reached the coveted undetectable status, meaning there was so little virus in my system that it couldn’t be detected. I decided I needed to eat better and treat my body with more respect, quitting smoking and fast food and cutting back on drinking.
I found the support from my friends to be the most important part of my diagnosis. We didn’t need to talk about it, but just knowing I wasn’t alone and knowing I had someone I could talk to was so important. Until a couple months ago, I had been seeing the same guy. We broke up in October, and since then I haven’t done much dating, but I know that if someone can accept me and this virus, then we can get along. But I will never let this virus rule my life. HIV and I are together till the end, but I run my life, not the other way around.