The survivor in me…


By Jorge Diaz, Clinical Social Worker, jorgeadiaz2010@gmail.com

Dear HIV,

Where do I begin???? For many of us, you came into our lives and changed everything. For some, you entered their lives and destroyed them with the devastating blow of the news causing their bodies to be paralyzed yet have the ability to feel every type of emotion-from despair to anger to disbelief to fear…. If you ever received an HIV negative test-you know the feeling of relief. Some of us heard different results that changed our future. I’m certain that those who’s life changed can understand. For many of us, it took some time to allow reality to set it and then the big question arises: What next? Where does someone go from here? We are all impacted by HIV in various ways.

There is not one set plan or rules one must follow to be successful in your fight and journey. It can seem easy to know what you should or should not do post an HIV diagnosis. For many of us, we seem to have more questions than answers or recommendations to follow. We often wonder why us? Why did this have to happen to me? What did I do to deserve this? It is very common for us to become overwhelmed with the “why’s” and “why me?” Becoming HIV positive is a process-a tough journey for most.

After 17 years of living with HIV-I have learned a lot about myself, life itself and how to take control and strive with my new reality-my new identity. I also found myself stating “I wish I can turn back time before HIV entered my life.” I realized what I was truly wishing for-I wanted to go back in time and be able to change my destiny and prevent you from entering my life. After 17 years, I have realized that it was not possible. It is merrily impossible to go back to the old me. This is the new me. HIV has created a warrior, a fighter- a dreamer. Why would I want to go back to the old me? Through my own journey, I have learned how to truly live life to the fullest. I have learned not to ask “why me” anymore. Its been a tough journey but a liberating one. It’s been 17 years of self-reflection and exploration.

I often ask myself what did you take away from me? But at the same time, I get the opportunity to ask myself what you have given me. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned has been the power of forgiveness and self-love. As I struggled for years to be able to forgive the person that changed my life forever, I was able to process my own feelings of guilt and shame. I am grateful that I have taken the challenge of facing life with HIV. In the end, I was able to forgive myself and live with out shame or stigma.