It was early 1985 and I was living in Washington , DC , while working for the District of Columbia. I was politically involved, in fact, I had run for a local elected position and won (Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner). I imagined I would run for City Council at some later point. I was young, ambitious, and planned to make a difference in the world in which I lived.
At the same time, I had some health matters going on, not severe, but just enough for me to feel something was wrong. I later came to identify swollen lymph nodes as one of those matters. I had a check up with my health plan and nothing was found. A worker with my health plan pulled me aside and suggested that I get tested at this place, Whitman Walker Clinic. I was never sure why they suggested that I get tested or why they suggested that, I do it somewhere else. I feel that God intervened in my life at that time, as He has a variety of other times.
Whitman Walker Clinic was right around the corner from where I lived and it served predominately Gay White men. I remember thinking, what would my predominately-Black neighbors think of me, if they saw me going into this place. I knew it would not be good. I put off going there as long as I could, but those damn lymph nodes kept bothering me. When I got up the courage to go there, I actually walked around the block several times before I went in and got tested.
When I got my test results, it was as if time held still for a while or the television screen just went blank, I do not remember anything they said to me. All I knew, at that point, was that people where dying very rapidly. My initial reaction was very much based in fear and denial. I had been using drugs at the time and started using them more. I thought that I was going to die, so I might as well get high, and boy did I. I stayed in that mode for way too many years. If I knew what I know now, my initial reaction may have been much different. I was probably at more risk of dying from my addiction than I ever was of HIV. However, as I came to understand more about addiction and HIV my behaviors gradually changed. Today, I view addiction and HIV as a very interrelated, two-headed monster that wants to kill me and I try to do the things that I can to keep them in remission. Thankfully, today, most people know that using drugs speeds up the progression of HIV to AIDS.
Initially after I tested, I did not change any behaviors. Subsequently my partner got pregnant. Not knowing much about the disease, our understandings began to change and we realized that our unborn child could be at risk. I remember praying persistently that my child be born healthy. While I really did not understand all the issues about the disease, I did know that God is good. My daughter Gabrielle was born without HIV in November 4th (Election Day) 1986. She is one of the many miracles in my life. She is 21 years old now.
I am thankful that we know so much more about HIV these days. Fortunately, people do not have to go through the hell I went through when I found out I was positive. However, it is evident by the number of newly diagnosed cases, that people are still not doing the things they need to do to protect themselves. Please, protect yourself…
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