A big thanks to HIVE: A Hub of Positive Reproductive & Sexual Health for featuring my story (Original Article Link) of being diagnosed with HIV on their website. I wrote my story this time with a little bit different style than usual which helped expand my creativity and give a briefer version of my diagnosis.
My continued goal is to help encourage others living with this virus as well as prevent new infections from occurring. Please make sure to check out HIVE and all the great work they are doing for people living with HIV/AIDS.
As always I appreciate your continued emotional support throughout my journey living with the virus. We will keep pushing forward until the long awaited day when a cure arrives and the goal of zero has officially been reached. Remember there is always hope even when you are HIV Positive!
Photo Courtesy of Sean Black Photography / A&U Magazine
When I heard the words “You are HIV Positive,” in June of 2012, time itself seemed to have stopped. It was as if I was seeing my whole life flash before my eyes and I was a simple bystander on the sidelines left with no control of the situation but to watch. My mind and body wanted to stay strong, but how can one expect to do so when receiving such news ? To call it a traumatic experience would be an understatement, it was a diagnosis that would forever change my life.
As someone who is a heterosexual male that wasn’t in what is considered a “high risk” group, it seemed as if contracting HIV would be the least of my worries. After all, HIV wasn’t something that happened to someone like me but to someone else, I told myself, right? I mean, I was getting tested on a regular basis just as a precaution so in my mind testing was prevention, however, I failed to realize I wasn’t doing anything to change my risk level when having sex.
Condoms? Well yeah those weren’t too big of a priority on my to do list when having sex. PrEP & TaSP weren’t even in my arena of knowledge at the time. After all, the main concern when a straight couple has sex is someone getting pregnant. If I didn’t use a condom that was more where my mind was headed to but certainly not the three letters that would forever define my being from then on, moving forward. After getting out of a relationship with my ex-girlfriend who had cheated multiple times, I was hurt, and I wanted a way to numb that pain. I certainly found an escape from my emotions and that was through casual sex, what could feel better? Little did I know, this unhealthy coping mechanism would trigger a chain of events that would change my life completely.
My battle with HIV may have just begun but my health issues started years earlier. As a survivor of necrotizing fasciitis, septic shock, and multiple hospitalizations, you figure I would have loved myself more than to put myself in risky situations. What we call “love” can sometimes make you do crazy things, especially when you know you are losing it. What I failed to realize about love is that I had lost that love for myself, the most important love of all. At only 22 years old it seemed I had my whole life ahead of me, but the direction of my life had taken a drastic change.
Telling my ex girlfriend of my diagnosis months after we had broken up was hard to say the least, it was down right painstaking. I had begun to tell my story ever since the day I was diagnosed, I couldn’t keep it in. First my co workers, then my friends, then my parents; it was like a domino effect where my life was now the center of attention and not in a good way. I was faced with a choice and I decided after finding support from others living with the virus that there was a need for a story like mine. Who would think that my story could make a difference? I certainly didn’t. A flip had switched in my mind and all the feelings of sadness, anger, and disappointment had done a 180 and, from that point on, I took control of my virus.
Not knowing where I had acquired HIV left me with no choice but to take responsibility for my own actions, and that was one of the hardest parts. At first, I naïvely thought knowing who had passed HIV to me would bring me closure, but after a while I knew it wouldn’t. I was now faced with a choice and I began to share my story so others could prevent themselves from ending up in the same shoes. Breaking that stereotype and putting a face to the virus was my goal. Showing the world that even through a life changing event, such as a HIV diagnosis, there is hope.
Then began the journey in which an old chapter of my life ended and a new one began. I may not be the typical story you think of when diagnosed but regardless, this is my life. I share my story through blogging, videos, and public speaking in hopes to prevent other people getting HIV, and to encourage others living with this virus.
HIV is a small part of who I am but inevitably it is a part of me now; it’s something I can’t take back. Life takes us different directions sometimes but if you’re negative you have the choice to take a different path. Through this process of tears and triumphs I have been molded into the man I am today. My name is Joshua Middleton and I am HIV positive.