Personal story: Khaya
I have learnt a lot about myself since my diagnosis
"I've been positive for 14 years, I am 34 now. I was very frightened when I first got the news. I was dating a guy who I didn't really know, and he was very callous and knew of his status. I think that’s what messed me up in the head the most when I realised it was that guy who infected me.
I was at university when I got the news and living away from home. I had to carry on regardless at Uni, although I think friends were concerned when I lost a lot of weight at one point. When I finished the course, I came back to live at home. I went through a few years of being in denial, not even reading anything which discussed HIV in the gay press. I was going out and drinking a lot to escape the truth. Then there was a turning point a few years later and I re-evaluated my life, myself and HIV.
I took the step of going to a clinic, I started to go for regular check-ups, and it wasn't long before I was on meds. My CD4 count at the time was about 160. I wasn’t sure of my viral load at the time – but I assumed it was very high. I'd also lost a lot of weight, but because I was still in my 20's, I just looked like your average slim guy (but I was really aware of it).
I would still socialise with friends, but take the meds in the toilet, never forgetting to take them. My social life has changed as I have got older and I don’t like to stay out late, so taking my meds is even less of a burden. I also only drink on rare occasions, as I have such a low alcohol tolerance and I hate feeling hungover!
My viral load is now undetectable and my CD4 count stable, and it has been that way for several years now (about 10). I have learnt a lot about myself since my diagnosis and how I deal with things; I have become more headstrong, and I don't give up very easily. I have always been private, but because of the diagnosis I am even more private about things such as my health. Although I do talk to very close friends about it – it’s important to have at least one person who isn't a clinician that you can talk to because they are helpful.
I work out, eat sensibly and work on maintaining my health through regular exercise. The weight has come back on, and I don’t have any facial or bodily muscle wastage and I am pleased about that. It would really get me down if I had lipodystrophy or facial atrophy. I never for one minute forget how my life changed and whilst I no longer dwell on the past, I do have days when I feel depressed because of the whole situation. But then I look at my life and the things I have achieved and that makes me feel better and more determined to do something with my life.
I have not been in a long term relationship because I guess I'm afraid of the reaction if I told the person. There have been short term relationships, but I never feel I know the guy enough to tell them. Although saying that I did date a guy and he disclosed his status and we talked about our experiences- it was a nice change to feel I could talk openly about it. I do think about the future and what it holds but as long as I have good friends who I meet regardless of whether they know my status, that’s the important thing. I do think as I get older, I am more likely to tell a guy, I guess because I know myself on a deeper level and feel more comfortable in my skin, HIV is part of my life, but it does not control my life."
What we say
Living with HIV has its challenges, and it may take some time to figure out how you can manage it in a way that works for you. As Khaya has discovered, HIV doesn’t have to control you. For more information, check out our page on taking care of yourself.
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These personal stories have been submitted to us anonymously by individuals who use our site. Some of the stories have been edited for clarity purposes and names have been changed to protect identities.