p Positive Talk - HIV Stops With Me

Positive Talk

Guest Article

Are You Responsible for Your Friend’s HIV?
Aaron M. Laxton

If I knew that some of my closest friends are shooting, snorting, or sleeping their way toward potential HIV infection (or worse, death), would my inaction make me indirectly responsible?

We have all seen the commercials that teach us to stop a drunk person from getting behind the wheel, but that same action should apply to other dangerous actions. We have an obligation to intervene when our friends engage in behaviors that are dangerous and potentially deadly. If we expect to stop new HIV infections or deaths caused by addiction to drugs such as crystal meth and heroin, then we must start having honest, clear conversations with one another.

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May Question of the Month

What responsibility do you take in becoming HIV+ and at this point of your journey how would you answer the question: Why me?
I take full, responsibility for becoming HIV positive. Way back when, I shared a syringe with a friend (at the time not knowing his status) and there was blood in…

I take full, responsibility for becoming HIV positive. Way back when, I shared a syringe with a friend (at the time not knowing his status) and there was blood in the syringe. I was addicted to heroin and I needed a fix and the only heroin around was in my friend’s syringe. Years later, after testing and getting into recovery, I ran across him and found out that he was HIV positive. Where I am at in my life, right now, is that I feel it is my purpose for being here. I lived through a time when everyone was dying and I asked myself, and God, “why me”? The answer always came back to me “why not you”? I live each day trying to use what I have been given to help stop the stigma so we can help end the epidemic!

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At this point of my journey I can somewhat take full responsibility on me becoming HIV positive. When I look back I realize that due to being molested at a…

At this point of my journey I can somewhat take full responsibility on me becoming HIV positive. When I look back I realize that due to being molested at a young age I grew up thinking that giving yourself to a man will make him love you and keep him. This caused me to occasionally be promiscuous. I had no self respect, no self value and no self love. WHY ME? At the time I found out I was HIV positive I did not have the mindset of asking myself that question. I was 23 with a two year old coming out of a domestic violence relationship. I was already in survival mode so becoming positive was just another bump in the road. Now I’m 49 and a 26 year HIV survivor. That’s WHY ME? To show the world that it is not a death sentence and to be a voice for those who are still silenced.

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When first being diagnosed with HIV it was hard to deal with, comprehend, and understand what did this mean? I was in college (undergrad ) about to pledge a sorority,…

When first being diagnosed with HIV it was hard to deal with, comprehend, and understand what did this mean? I was in college (undergrad ) about to pledge a sorority,  and in the middle of declaring my major. The prime of my life of making big moves. Clueless that I placed myself at risk for two years with my one and only partner that I had planned to marry sometime after graduation. Many years afterwards I pointed the blame of he did this to me, following why me ? I did not begin to really take accountability until I began work in the field of doing Outreach and Health Education. Educating others especially informing young people that we must hold ourselves accountable for our actions. In my opinion there are only two types of people that get a pass when it comes to HIV those that were born with HIV, or individuals that were raped. In life we make decisions and choices. With those decisions and choices we make comes repercussions. I had plenty of why me episodes through my journey of being HIV positive as well. What helped me greatly years after being infected was seeing a therapist. Along with going to church and being motivated to understand that when those feelings come up, just to know and realize that HIV was not a blessing but a wake up call. A wake up call to get my attention from God. An understanding that I did nothing wrong but love someone by being intimate on a deeper level.

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This is a question I think of most often.  As I communicate with my children and in speaking events I talk about caring for self which leads to self respect…

This is a question I think of most often.  As I communicate with my children and in speaking events I talk about caring for self which leads to self respect and self responsibility. 1. I personally try my best to not blame others for my wrongs and misfortunes but instead take responsibility for what I did to help or harm the situation. 2. I try not to beat myself up so much. A lot of times I get in my feelings and I am way too hard on myself. 3. Let others make their own mistakes. Caring for others is a difficult challenge that could lead to me being frustrated like I have failed their future. When I became HIV positive I knew just how I got it. I did not know how recent but I knew who it was. I did not hate him then and I do not hate him now. Being HIV positive does not bring me joy or pleasure but when I look at my life’s path I can say it was worth it. My entire life changed when I became positive and back then I did not want to see my future. Now, I can celebrate my status with my future and rejoice in the order of steps wherever they may lead from here.

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At this point in my life I take responsibility for becoming HIV positive. I was a young gay male and I did not educate myself about the risks of having…

At this point in my life I take responsibility for becoming HIV positive. I was a young gay male and I did not educate myself about the risks of having unsafe sex. I do not blame the person I contracted HIV from at all and I really never have. I own the fact that I basically infected myself because of my own actions, better yet my own inactions.

As for the whole “Why me, why oh why me?” part, I do not get hung up on that. I could throw a pity party each and every day and yet not a single thing would change. I would still have HIV so why would I put myself through that sadness, that anger. Instead I choose to be happy and healthy, not to think of the “If only’s” or “Why me’s?”. It is so much easier to be happy than to be miserable. It is so much easier to educate children/teens/young adults than to wish I had only educated myself in the first place. And that is where I am right now in this journey.

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When I think about my responsibility in becoming HIV positive, I think about the fact that my husband, who was an IV drug user, never told me that he injected…

When I think about my responsibility in becoming HIV positive, I think about the fact that my husband, who was an IV drug user, never told me that he injected heroin and he never did drugs in my presence, or in our home.  When I found out about his drug use, we had only been married for a few months. I often wonder if I should have been more in tune to his behavior, even though it would not have changed my diagnosis. I was diagnosed with HIV after my husband’s murder, due to a drug deal gone bad.  At the time, I had a great Primary Care Doctor who urged me to get tested. In the beginning of my journey, when I finally decided to get treatment, I was fortunate enough to have access to exceptional medical care and dedicated providers who taught me about the disease of HIV, taught me the importance of being honest in all medical situations and taught me how to manage my healthcare like a champion.

Before HIV, I did not realize that good health equals a good life. My journey has led me to become a Peer Counselor at a Community Health Center which gives me the opportunity to work with substance users and folks at risk. Working with people who feel disenfranchised and invisible is such an empowering experience, because I am them. Giving hope and strength to those who need it most is something I never could have imagined and in turn helps me grow. So, the question for me isn’t “Why me?”…the question is actually “Why not me”?!!?  

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I try not to focus so much on the why and try to focus more so on what am I going to do moving forward? I understand that there are…

I try not to focus so much on the why and try to focus more so on what am I going to do moving forward? I understand that there are factors beyond my individual control that may have contributed to my increased risk for HIV, however, focusing solely on those factors does not necessarily help me take full control of my life moving forward. With that being said, I take full responsibility in becoming HIV positive. I was already doing HIV prevention work (testing, advocacy and activism) since I was about 19, so for me, receiving a positive diagnosis really solidified the work I felt called to do. After receiving my diagnosis, not only did I become even more involved in HIV-related work, I came up with a slogan to empower myself and keep me in high spirits; the slogan is “I’m positive with a positive attitude.” I hope this gives you all a bit more insight into how I have dealt with my diagnosis over the past 5 years. Take care!

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I take full responsibility for becoming HIV positive. I knew the risk involved with having sex without using condoms. I made a conscious decision to have sex without using protection…

I take full responsibility for becoming HIV positive. I knew the risk involved with having sex without using condoms. I made a conscious decision to have sex without using protection and as a result I contracted HIV. Why me? I used to ask myself that a lot, while searching for an answer, it occured to me why not me. I think that became the better question or at least an easier question to answer. Why not me to lead the fight in my community? Why not me to take on the task of ending stigma? Why not me to start the conversation about HIV/AIDS? Why me, because I was the only one with the courage not only to live out loud while living with HIV, but because I wanted to be different, I wanted to make people aware of how to stay safe, how to avoid having to go through what I went through. I want people to know Why me, so I can help them help themselves. So when I ask myself why me? I now say Why not me and if not me then who?

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The responsibility I take in becoming HIV positive is not really being on top of my health like I should have been when I started becoming sexually active at the…

The responsibility I take in becoming HIV positive is not really being on top of my health like I should have been when I started becoming sexually active at the age of 19. I was making adult decisions and did not really fully see through the fact that my decisions would have consequences. I would engage in condomless sex and not really think of getting tested after. I was not aware of PrEP at the time either. I did not really have enough knowledge because I did not seek it. I did not like to disclose much about my sex life because I did not want to feel “judged”. The advice I like to give to everyone is to be sexually liberated no matter if you are 19 or 70. If you are having sex it is important to take care of yourself, get tested regularly, be open with your doctor he/she is there to help you with your health. Ask about PrEP if condoms are not your first thought. Get educated. Enjoy having a healthy sex life. The question : why me? It is funny on Monday April 23rd, 2018 I was walking toward the train to start work and I found a dollar on the floor. I picked it up and realized that the year on the bill said 2013. It struck me because October of 2013 was the year I was diagnosed HIV positive. How serendipitous. I reminisced on the past five years and remembered how afraid and sad I felt the first two years. I often refer to them as my cathartic years. A time where I took time to really get to know me, love myself-honor myself and heal in all forms. In that time the question why me became more about forgiveness. Forgiving myself and forgiving those I thought I needed to at the time. It was one of the most liberating awakening’s I experienced at such an early age.

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My part of my responsibility of becoming HIV positive was that I was a IV drug user back in 1985. It has been 26 years since I stopped using drugs…

My part of my responsibility of becoming HIV positive was that I was a IV drug user back in 1985. It has been 26 years since I stopped using drugs ,I cannot say why me when I put myself there. All I can do now is try to stay healthy, stay on my medications and keep my doctor’s appointments.

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Why Me? Is a Question I really never asked myself regarding HIV infection. Not that I expected to become infected even with knowledge of the risk I was taking with…

Why Me? Is a Question I really never asked myself regarding HIV infection. Not that I expected to become infected even with knowledge of the risk I was taking with Intravenous Drug Use. However, I like many other addicts never thought enough about it. The drugs were the most important  aspect of my life regardless of the risk. I have never placed blame on anyone for the consequences of MY actions, not even GOD. The first real consideration I ever gave to anything was when my children were born and I wanted to be a part of their lives and I needed to know how to do that without putting them at any risk. I have never held anyone responsible for my actions other than myself, and I was raised in a family of STRONG faith never to question GOD’S ability to bring you through ANY storm, because of that we were always taught to ask not Why me? but Why not me?. Because of that WHY ME? Has never been a question UNTIL NOW. I have asked myself WHY ME? regarding ACTIVISM, AND ADVOCACY, but  I already know the answer to that question.

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I think these are two distinct but important questions.  Do I ask why me? Not anymore. I came to peace with that a long time ago. I know I did…

I think these are two distinct but important questions.  Do I ask why me? Not anymore. I came to peace with that a long time ago. I know I did not do anything that most people do not also do–have condomless sex with the person I loved. For better or worse, those of us living with HIV drew the “short straw”.  There is a general statistical probability that some people will get HIV and we unfortunately were one of them. I never ask why me? I do ask what can I do going forward and how can I use my experience living with HIV to improve my life and impact the lives of others living with HIV. It is important to know that we are in this together. It is not a very exclusive club–there are over 36 million people worldwide living with HIV and more than 1 million of those are living here in the US. There is so much beauty and strength and resilience and talent in our community.  

Responsibility?  Well, when my partner told me he was HIV negative and did not have any other STDs, I believed him.  When he said he got tested, I believed him. I cannot say that I am any less trusting of humanity from one person but I should have asked for some sort of documentation of test results at the time or gone for testing together. I am much more vigilant about verifying STI results before I have condomless sex now.  I cannot just trust what someone says; I need proof. If I am being honest. I must admit that I also find myself a little wary of dating bisexual men or men who have sex with both men and women because of my experience. I know that the prevalence of STIs are much higher among bisexual men and men who have sex with men. Does that mean that there are not responsible men out there who have sex with both men and women?  Of course not. There are responsible and irresponsible people among all genders and sexual orientations but I’m just a little bit more cautious “out the gate”. One STD is enough for a lifetime.

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Let me start by saying that I definitely put myself at risk , knowing what was out there, knowing all the dangers and what could happen. I still put myself…

Let me start by saying that I definitely put myself at risk , knowing what was out there, knowing all the dangers and what could happen. I still put myself in jeopardy. I take full responsibility because even being aware I did not care. I was too busy chasing drugs and living the fast life to stop and think of what could happen. So yes, I take full responsibility. I knew all the risks and did not take precautions, all I wanted was my next hit, no matter what I had to do to get it I did it. It was no surprise to me when I found out I was positive considering the life I was living back then. As far as WHY ME? BECAUSE I DID IT TO MYSELF AND I BLAME NO ONE BUT ME. It takes a strong person to admit and overcome all the mistakes she has made. I like to say look into my life see me as a mirror to what can happen when you know better and if you do not let me tell you.

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