POZiversary is the act of celebrating the anniversary of one’s HIV diagnosis. Despite all the progress that has been made in the treatment of HIV and despite the fact that HIV is completely manageable for most people, receiving a positive diagnosis remains a challenge. HIV is not the death sentence it once was in the 80’s and 90’s but the sigma is still there and those newly diagnosed can get scared and that’s okay. Still, why would anyone want to celebrate or even acknowledge the day that they received a positive diagnoses?
It’s been 9 years since I found out that I was HIV Positive. When I found out I was positive there were so many fears. There was the fear of telling my boyfriend, there was the fear of the stigma of HIV/AIDS and there was the fear of the unknown. Later on after telling my then boyfriend about my diagnosis he was tested. We found out that his CD4 counts were lower and that he had HIV longer than me and in fact infected me. I was lulled into a false sense of security because we were in a monogamous relationship.
When I was infected in college all I knew about HIV/AIDS or thought I knew was that it can be transmitted sexually and that gay men were at a higher risk for infection. It’s a common misconception that gay men in relationships are at less risk of HIV and they tend to get tested less frequently then single gay men. There is also a high frequency of gay men in relationships or with their main sexual partner(s) that do not use condoms.
HIV can be transmitted between sexual partners and if condoms are not used there maybe a false sense of security. It’s assumed that everyone in the relationship or the sexual encounter knows his own HIV status and everyone should know their HIV status whether they are in a relationship or not. I recommend getting tested every three months.
After a positive diagnosis the health department will show up at your door and it can be a very scary thing to have a person from the government come knocking on your door asking a great many personal questions that you may not feel like anwsering. I mean who really wants to talk with complete strangers about their sex life? “How many sex partners have you had?” “How many times have you been tested for HIV and when was it?” “Do you have a phone number for any of the people you have had sex with?” It’s the Health Departments job to contact the people that have had sexual contact with a person that is HIV positive and it’s their job to get those people tested, but the health department will not disclose how they received that contact information. This is so you keep your privacy and there is no telling how someone may react so it keeps you safe as well.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the estimated Lifetime Risk of HIV Diagnosis in Indiana is 1 in 183. Overall, an American has a 1 in 99 chance of being diagnosed with HIV at some point in his or her life. But that lifetime risk is greater for people living in the South than in other regions of the country. Linking people to care within 3 months after an HIV diagnosis improves their health and reduces the risk of transmission. In 2014, the majority of states with the lowest levels of linkage to care were in the South. According to the CDC in 2015, 39,513 people were diagnosed with HIV infection in the United States. More than 1.2 million people are living with HIV, and about 1 in 8 don’t know it. Make the informed decisions about your health and get tested.
I’m not proud to be HIV positive but I’m proud that I can be open about my status and stand up to the faces of adversity. There are many reasons why a person cannot be open about their status, yet I am one of those people who can and that is why I celebrate my “POZiversary.” It’s like celebrating LGBT PRIDE every year. You are not only celebrating who you are you are celebrating your life and the lives of the people in your community, you are also educating and living by example. You are showing someone else the way out of darkness and ignorance you are shining the light on misconception and sigma. You are showing people who might be afraid, whether they are afraid of their sexuality or their HIV status that there is still light and life at the end of the tunnel, least that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to educate and maybe if I do it right I can give that young kid in college who was just like me, who just got told that he was HIV positive hope, maybe I can let them know that it will be okay. Life will be different but it will be okay. So that’s why I celebrate my POZiversary.
Matthew 25 AIDS Services, INC. is a non-profit healthcare clinic that specializes in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. They are only one of two comprehensive HIV/AIDS Service clinics in Southern Indiana and Western Kentucky.