May 19 is National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and World Hepatitis Day. This blog post is one of a series on the impact of HIV and Hepatitis B in Asian & Pacific Islander communities. As A&PIs, you may not believe that you are at risk for these diseases, but you are. Follow our posts throughout the week for different perspectives and stories from our community.
The posting below is from a community member that wanted to remain anonymous. The purpose of this posting is to share this community member’s experiences of living with HIV.
I am not going to write about the trials and tribulations of having HIV, nor am I going to write about how I got infected and the challenges, the low points, the rejection, and the stigma. There is so much negativity and heaviness when talking about HIV that people rarely get to hear the positivity and the beauty of living with this disease.
What I am going to write about are the benefits of living with HIV. Since my diagnosis almost 2 years ago, I have found many benefits that I would not have recognized at this point in my life. As crazy as this may sound, I have finally gotten to a point where I know I am lucky to be living with HIV.
Benefit No. 1: Clarity.
Within a week of being diagnosed, everything became so clear. Who I am. What I want. What is most important to me. Who is most important to me. What I want in a friend. What I want in a life partner. My goals. My dreams. My present. My future. All of it became so clear. Suddenly that cliché of living every day like it is your last resonated with me. If I really had just this one day to live, I would want to live it with purpose, with stability, and with passion. The small stuff, the daily drama, and the bullshit does not get to me like it used to. It is a breath of fresh air to have this inner peace.
Benefit No. 2: Understanding, Forgiving, and Loving.
I got tired of being angry – it ate my soul, my heart, and my body. Along with clarity, I began to develop understanding, forgiveness, and a deep love for people. Now when I think about the man who I got HIV from, I ask: What hurt him so much that he would want to hurt me? Was he intentionally hurting me or is that type of behavior towards women all he knew? I stopped blaming. I started understanding. I started to forgive and to let go of the trauma. I thank my HIV-positive diagnosis for this insight. Now I love deeper, I love truer, I love harder.
Benefit No. 4: Spirituality.
In the past two years I have really looked to the Higher Powers. In my healing process, I’ve come to terms with mortality. It is a fact that I am living with a chronic disease and it is a fact that my body will decay and return to the earth no matter how well I take care of myself. Reacting to these facts, I am in such awe of each human being’s role in the grand scheme of things. It is a dose of humility. I am a fleeting blink of an eye in this universe, I don’t have all the answers, and I am OK with that. I’m looking forward to a lifetime of spiritual development and I hope I find myself at the end of my days sitting on a beach with warm wind against my face.
Benefit No. 5: The Perfect Filter.
Thank you HIV for being the PERFECT filter. Because of you I do not invest in people who do not love and appreciate me for me. Because of you I have been introduced to phenomenal people and every day heroes I would not have met otherwise. Because of you I have the strength to let go of men who cannot date me because I am HIV-positive. Because of you I have developed true and real human relationships with my family and my friends. Because of you I have found a beautiful support system. Because of you my definition of “success” has become more robust. Because of you I cut down on spending time and energy on the crap that life can hand you. Because of you I have the motivation to go big or go home.
For me, HIV is one of the best things that ever happened to me. I am not denying how hard it has been and how hard it continues to be not only to process trauma, but also to make choices and life decisions as an HIV-positive Asian woman in her very early 20s. What I am saying, however, is that through my diagnosis I have become empowered. I have found a voice and a blissful urge to live.