I became infected with HIV ten years ago, when I was 30, from sexual intercourse with my boyfriend. At first, my reaction was just as you would expect. I was shocked. And also, I was worried that people would judge me. But then I met a group of new friends living with HIV. I realized that people with HIV can live for so many years. And I thought to myself, “Why can’t I stay alive too?”
I take my medicine and care for myself, both body and soul. That’s why I’m still here now. I have to be very careful about the timing of my medication. I wish there were a cure, so that I didn’t have to take it anymore. Each medicine has a different side effect. As a result, my body has changed. I do exercises every morning to help get a better shape, to help reduce my lipodystrophy (body bulge is a common side effect from taking HIV medications). It’s not like I’m fat, but it’s not natural. When I look at myself naked in the mirror I feel that I look like a monster. Before, I had the normal curves. Now, I have a hump on the back, and I have a distended tummy. My right fingertips feel numb. I can’t even make a fist. Nobody knows the pain that I get from my HIV medication. Nobody else feels it. But I know it, and I feel it.
If we don’t want people to stamp HIV on our foreheads, then we have to take better care of our appearance. Even though I’m HIV-infected, it doesn’t mean I don’t care about my personal beauty. I can make myself look good. I don’t want society to see HIV as something pathetic. I don’t want them to feel sorry for me.
I like to go out into the world and work because it shows that I can live my life and work just like an ordinary person. When I visit infected colleagues at home, I always encourage them to get up and fight. I was there before. I was in pain just like they are now. But I fought hard and tried hard to take care of myself, by seeing the doctors, and by taking medicine on the right schedule.
My personal space is my home. Home is the happiest place on earth for me. I feel relaxed and refreshed when I enter my door after a long day at work. I enjoy my time watching TV, relaxing, listening to the music, cleaning the house, and doing my hobbies. I am a neat person. Every morning, even if I’m running late, even if I’m in a rush, I sweep and clean my room. If my room isn’t clean when I come back from work, and I’m tired, I can get very annoyed. So annoyed it can cause me a migraine.