How I Knew I Had HIV: Stories by Real People Living with HIV

For the past couple of years, we've featured our friends in a series called Tales of Triumph. Each story shows brave people sharing how they knew they had HIV and their stories about finding inspiration, hope, and support.

Everyone's experience is different, and that's important because NO ONE symptom just shows up to indicate that you might have HIV. In fact, most people feel no symptoms at all prior to finding out. That is why getting tested is so important. In the beginning, it can be frightening, but these individuals overcame their fears and have triumphed.


How I knew I had HIV: Mariah's story

Mariah is a mother of three. She was tested and diagnosed but didn't go back for a doctor's appointment until four months later. She was too nervous and uncertain about what this all meant. Then Mariah found out she was pregnant. The overwhelming desire to have a healthy child motivated her to take care of herself and her baby. She felt a real change happening when she joined a support group. She took her meds, and her outlook improved.

"Joining an HIV support group has been a great way to overcome the isolation you feel after you've been diagnosed HIV-positive."

 

 

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How I knew I had HIV: Cederick's story

Cederick was 24 years old and away on vacation in Florida when things took a turn. He wasn't eating like normal and felt something was off. He described feeling like his brain was "on fire." He went to the ER, and the doctors suspected it was lymphoma. The doctors did more blood work, and Cedrick came back to Cleveland. Once back home, the doctors called and told him he didn't have lymphoma but instead was positive for HIV. Cederick told his auntie. He described the event as coming out of the closet twice: sharing his sexuality and HIV status. Thankfully, she listened and supported him. After he connected with his doctor, he started his meds. The same doc suggested Positive Peers.

He enjoys using the calendar, reading the blogs, and connecting to his support group with the app. His biggest challenge at first was staying on top of the medication. He used the medication reminder, set timers, and worked to beat the timer every day.

 

 

How I knew I had HIV: Henry's story

Henry was just one year older than Cederick. When he went to the clinic to get test results, he was told he was positive for HIV. Life was coming at him fast and showing little mercy. When Henry was diagnosed, he was taking care of his father, sick with cancer. In addition, his family's house went into foreclosure. His car broke down, and a job fell through. Henry and his partner (who does not have HIV) both struggled with Henry’s HIV diagnosis. Henry finally went to a support group for people living with HIV. With the support of a support group, he found comfort.

Having people to talk out his problems with, and knowing others were facing the same challenges, helped give him strength when he needed it most.

 

How I knew I had HIV: Dennis' story

Dennis, diagnosed at 18 years old, describes his past as "messy at times." When he was told his status, he was scared. He didn't know much about HIV or AIDS and thought they were the same. He had all the feelings –anger, depression, and eventually peace. He joined a support group and eventually became a Navigator. In this role, he helps people deal with their diagnoses: getting meds, getting counseling, and disclosing status with others. Also, Dennis has helped many teenagers and young adults learn about HIV prevention. Dennis has used his HIV status as a positive force in his life and how he shows up for others.

"You just have to get comfortable with yourself and know that you can make it through," he says. "It ain't like you can just die from it. You've got a second chance. It's what you make it — as long as you take your medicine and do what you gotta do."

 

Positive Peers Sameer

How I knew I had HIV: Sameer's story

Sameer already knew a lot about HIV before his diagnosis. He was sick for a few days and had a rash that made him suspect he might've been infected. Sameer, much like Dennis, sees his HIV diagnosis as a second chance at life. He gained a greater sense of value for life. As he learned to accept his health status, he joined a support group. The support group offered the encouragement he needed to move forward boldly.

"Really learning how to love yourself is one of the best things that came out of the experience," Sameer says. HIV forces you to take care of yourself — not just your health, but your whole lifestyle.

 

Living with HIV can be tough. Being in a community with others going through many of the same things makes it easier.

Here at Positive Peers, we support and celebrate our friends living with HIV. It doesn't matter if someone was just diagnosed or is a long-term survivor; we are here 100 percent.

If you are living with HIV, consider joining the Positive Peers community. It's simple, safe, and discreet.

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