The Long Red Road – A minute of Gratitude

It was 2012 when I was too sick to even get out of my bed. My body constantly ached, my vision was going, and I was scared to death, literally. I saw doctor, after doctor, proud volunteers that looked over all of the different conditions, to no avail.

I was living in a motel, out of work, and poor as dirt. I had no money for doctors; I barely had money enough to pay for the room I was in. Test after test, until it became clear that I was sick with either some form of cancer, or it was AIDS.

I couldn’t find free testing. It may have been that I couldn’t see a computer screen completely, or it may have been my debilitating condition, who knows. I finally got a ride to The Center, in Orlando Florida from my aunt.

In less than 15 minutes I had my answer. I had HIV and I was suffering from AIDS. Not a complete surprise but I felt the world collapse. My partner had HIV too, and I was the one who gave it to him. I put a gun to his head, and pulled the trigger. I was less than anything, and I just knew this was it. It was the end.

Two weeks later, I believe as I just don’t remember the passing of time, a gentle nurse showed up to my door with my confirmatory testing results. She handed me the results and then a tiny little slip of paper with a phone number on it. That was the day my whole life changed. Somehow, some way, help found me. I promptly called the number, was advised to gather some bits of information and to report to the County Health Department.

When I walked in, I was rushed into an office. A lady named Chanel sat down at her desk, collected my information and got to work. She advised me this would not be easy, that I had work ahead of me. I needed to see a Doctor at a place called Comprehensive Health Care. Because I had no transportation she arranged a van to come and get us.

I walked into the office, now not as terrified as I was confused. I had no clue what was going to happen, just that someone was going to look me over, and a process was beginning.

I was assigned a nurse, Jessica. I joked that I had never met Jessica Rabbit in person before, which was totally inappropriate but well received. She was the most lovely, understanding, wonderful woman I had ever met. Her compassion and her dedication were overwhelming. I could do nothing but be in awe of her movements, how she was so thorough. It was awe inspiring.

She left the room for a moment to call the Doctor in. A tall black man walked in. He said his name was Dr. Ronald Cathcart. If Jessica was compassionate and efficient, this man was a God of Doctors. He had no problem putting his hands on me to physic ally diagnose every opportunistic dilemma I had going on. He ordered specialists, further testing, and follow ups. Somehow I felt like family to these new people.

A blood test and urinalysis came next. With the speed of light, the team worked out patient care assistance to get me on a strangely named drug called Stribld. I was put on some antibiotics, antifungal, and he explained the most important advice I have ever been given.

I was going to survive, only if I took these meds exactly as he told me to. “Once a day, every day” he said was the mantra of my life now. I tried to put the fear in a box, now I had this team, this new family. I had to make this man happy, to make Jessica proud.

That was the beginning of the “Long Red Road”.

Fast forward, six years. That mantra, that team, from my case manager Chanel, all the way through eye doctors, and psychologists and psychiatrists, and dermatologists, I have now been “undetectable” for 5 years. I lost the sight from my right eye, but I pressed on. I felt the urge to be a light in this dark place. I wasn’t just HIV positive, I was just POSITIVE. Screw HIV! Not today Satan, you can’t have me! I’m stronger, I’ll show you!

And boy did I. Look at me now! I am here, telling you this story. I didn’t die, I THRIVED.

Jessica moved on to be the Deputy Director of my clinic. I served as the Community Action Board of said clinics Secretary and I started this blog. I wasn’t going to just beat this; I was going to show the world how to beat it.

I spent the last 5 years of my life on disability, thinking I would never be able to work again. The things I loved about my life were just out of reach. Or so I was lead to believe.

Disability ended, and life began again. I chose the hardest path I could imagine; I would once again hold the certification to be a Certified Nursing Assistant. I would do the impossible and get not just my life back, but my whole life back. I wasn’t taken too seriously at first. Just how was I to prove to the world I was capable of caring for others in a skilled nursing environment? I was half blind, and diseased. Who would take me seriously?

It turns out it only had to be me. I worked hard, studied late into the nights, and drank so much coffee that I know I almost became a coffee bean.

I challenged the CNA Board test, and I passed. I PASSED! I was not only healthy, and successful, but in my hot little hand I had that all important certification that proved beyond anyone’s doubts, I was CERTIFIED!

I sent out my resume, with work references that just didn’t exist anymore. I was interviewed, I was like a magician. I moved swiftly, answered all their detailed questions. I impressed them. I now have the job, and not just any job, my dream job! I was what I always wanted to be again!

I write this to you, my lovelies, to encourage you. It took an army of people, probably a half a million dollars, and real hard work. I over came this. I frantically called Jessica, now a sister in love. I had to pour out my gratitude! I called Chanel, she is a miracle worker, and she definitely needed to be thanked. She can check off the box in my care plan that I am a professional now.

I have to thank every one of you, even you who I have never met, who just found me today. THANK YOU and welcome to my little family. It’s a safe place here, we all love you! I love you! Stay here with me, I’ll hold you up, no matter how you came in, when you leave you will be more. That is my dedication to you, that is my promise!

So now, on the Long Red Road we will walk together. I will keep on sharing my life with you, and I hope you share yours with me, and others. It truly takes a village! An army of love. We will overcome this together and as much as I have seen success, I share mine with you.

Thank you for reading this. I hope you will read more, and I know you will be ok.

“Once a day, Every day”, each step “Positive”. Together down the “Long Red Road”.

As always,

In Unconditional Love,

You’re Friend David.

The Thing We Call “Life”: “You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.” – A Comeback

Good Day my Lovlies, I have missed you all so…..

I felt the need to explain my absence to you for many months now. I know that I needed to step away for a while to get my bearings with my own experience, as I have been presented with quite a few life lessons, learned in very hard ways.

Essentially we are nothing but molecules caught in the ebb and flow of the sea of life. Unseen forces, tides, move us closer and then farther away from our intended reality. The tides take us beyond our limitations and then back to the lows of lack of intention.

When we are farther from our intentions it is easy to try to “reinvent the wheel” when nothing is really broken. It is a trap, that can keep you silent and once you try, you find yourself pushed back to your intentions. It’s a cycle, and it is immutable.

Riding the tides is the goal of every human learning to be content. And we all can be content whether the tide is low or the tide is high. But here’s the rub, we don’t like it both ways. We become jaded to the highs and the lows. After all, the human organism strives for homeostasis – the state of equilibrium. Life is not homeostatic. It is a flow; it can be a trickle or a deluge.

So when yet another seemingly incurable disorder popped into my existence I lost my voice for a while.

So as you all know I am striving to be a nursing professional. I have been tested and while I passed the written exam, I failed the clinical exam. I literally had no time to study the skills and on top of that I choked. My mind went absolutely black as the test started, and this may have been a real blow to my ego, if it weren’t for the actual test result. I passed all but one skill, and that was because of my mental state.

The tide kept flowing out. My aid job, that was so wonderfully fulfilling took a turn. My patient fell on my only day away from her, and ended up needing inpatient therapy. She is declining, and in her state she may never come back to her home. It is time to think about her safety and her happiness, it may be time to think about longer term care. This is sad but it is the progression of dementia. I always knew these days would come.

And the hits keep on coming. My mother has been diagnosed with stage three lung cancer, and over the past few months, while keeping her secret, I have been trying to nurse her through the gauntlet of Medicaid, radiation and chemotherapy, and disability. She is a very private person so I was not allowed to talk about what I was feeling. I will leave this subject this way… I have already fought a not so incurable disease, I got this.

So the fact I’ve been silent does not mean I’ve been static. My HIV has taken a backseat, finally, to everything else in my life. It almost seems like a topic not even worth talking about when put back to back with all the other things I have on my plate.

But HIV cannot be a topic that we stop fighting for. Cancer cannot be a topic we cannot be complacent about. With the advances in medicine and the research moving toward a cure for all illnesses we must press on, and keep the focus.

So for my comeback statement I have but one thing to say:

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Cancer sucks, and AIDS blows. And we can cure them both!”

Stay tuned for more.

In Unconditional Love,

Your Friend David

 

Regarding the issue of gun violence and sensible gun control legislation: An Official notice from Your Friend David and The Crimson Lifeline

Official Notice from The Crimson Lifeline

Regarding the issue of gun violence and sensible gun control legislation:

 

I have been trying to stay out of politics as my page and my blog is for everyone. It will remain for everyone, but I cannot continue to watch innocent life be so violently taken. I cannot stand and see a shooting every day and not say words about how I feel.

 

How do I feel? I am pissed off! I am hot mad and I can’t stay quiet any longer so if you are offended and will not listen to this, I will not apologize, my blog, and my page is not for you.

I stand firm in support of the Second Amendment but I believe that the original intent is being absconded by special interest and by the NRA.

The Crimson Lifeline is officially and with all of my voice, fervently supporting the right of these young adults, men and women of all ages and races, of all religions and all makes and models, to resist the NRA and to march for their right to be safe. We all have a voice and I will be using mine now!

I have seen too many souls be taken by gun violence. I have watched terror reign and flourish under poor legislation and inaction. How many more souls must we watch die? How many times can we say “They are in our prayers” but never act. This is the end. No more silence. No more fear.

I fight stigma every day, but my voice now fights back against the representatives that have sat on their hands and pandered to the NRA for far too long.

Students who have chosen to take a stand and walk out have the absolute right to their First Amendment right to peaceably protest and walk out of their schools. They are marching as I type this in numbers in the millions. They are registering to vote, and they are taking a stand.

The Crimson Lifeline will not be on the wrong side of history. I and my page will now stand for the right of children to be safe in their schools. I and my page will stand for the right of innocent Americans to be safe at their churches and places of entertainment. Terror will never make my voice silent and my page will never let the horror to stop the belief.

Sensible gun control is not a suggestion, it is a DEMAND.

Contact your local representatives and senators. Contact them and remind them that we are voters, and proud Americans who are taking a stand. Demand the return of all funds that the NRA has funneled into their coffers for elections. Demand legislation, true and effective legislation that preserves the sovereign right of the people to LIFE LIBERTY and THE PERSUIT OF HAPPINESS.

We demand that the right to be safe and protected be honored and lifted up.

You can text 50409 with the word “NRA” to find out who your representatives and your senators are, and how much the NRA has donated in support or in opposition to their campaigns. Once you know who they are then call their offices. Then hit them up on Facebook directly. Facebook has added a feature to add to your post the option to contact them and to allow your followers to contact them. Tweet them at their accounts that you will be voting and they need to DO SOMETHING.

Words mean little. Actions speak louder. DEMAND ACTION.

This is The Crimson Lifeline’s stance on this issue. Those who take issue with it may leave. I understand. I will not miss you. You will be on the wrong side of history and we will never again allow this to happen.

I support the MARCH FOR OUR LIVES and I hope you will register and vote your conscience.

I will be.

With love, honor, respect, and dignity for all Americans,

WE STAND WITH EMMA. WE STAND WITH PARKWAY. WE STAND AGAINST THE NRA. WE STAND FOR PEACE. WE WILL NOT BE SILENT. WE WILL ACT AND WE WILL BE HEARD!

WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DEMAND CHANGE!

Your Friend David

I am HIV EQUAL – Your Friend David

We all have a status. In this binary screwed up world we have been told that we are gay or straight, republican or democrat, dirty or clean, positive or negative. It’s the way the world seems to want to keep our voices in check.

You won’t fit in if you aren’t one or the other. You will never be clean if you’re dirty. If you are positive for HIV you can’t be clean. It’s disgusting.
Shortly after my diagnoses of HIV I felt that stigma in spades. I lost friends, and family. My whole life revolved around the notion I was less now. I’d never have a loving relationship again, not with anyone who wasn’t as dirty as I am.

I bought into it too. I let my friends go; I let my family say their ugly statements. I fully believed I was never going to be anything but a diseased outcast. That is what the world told me. That is what I believed.

I woke up one morning in a panic attack. I was gasping for air, and for sanity. I felt all alone and negative about everyone and everything until I had the epiphany. I was not HIV positive, I was just positive. I am a positive force in this world. I will not let HIV define me; I will define it to me. I took control.
From there I spread the news. Do not fear a positive life, even though they will tell you their uneducated truth. It’s not your truth, you know better.

I became an activist and advocate because of this.

I just gave a presentation on what it means to have an undetectable viral load and how that is empowering and freeing. You cannot transmit the virus if you are in good care, and your viral load is undetectable. U=U became my mantra. And it has served me well.

But I want more. I want to be the man I was. How can I learn to live in a different way, and then I ran across this message online. It was the very thing I wanted to know and hear. We all have a status. We are HIV equal.

What is HIV Equal and what does it mean?
“HIV Equal is an international multimedia campaign that aims to end HIV stigma and promote HIV testing by creating a social art movement that changes the way people think about HIV and which reopens the national dialogue about HIV.” (http://www.hivequal.org/campaign)

I saw these folks taking back their life all that HIV took. They are saying to HIV “You don’t get to define me anymore.” We are no less important and loved than anyone else. I can love, and be loved. I can live and have a full life. I can finally let go of the fear.
We are all HIV Equal. Equal in our love, our pain, and our lives.
“HIV Equal” is really an art campaign that aims to change the way we discuss the issues related to HIV. New science and better medicines make PLWHIV no different from a person with diabetes, or high blood pressure. We can stay in treatment, and take care of our bodies, and be just like anyone else. No one has to even know what your status is. Your status is EQUAL.
I am no less than you. In your pain, I see my own. In your love, I see my love. In your equality, I see equality for myself. I am a lot of things, but I am not binary. I don’t even know if I am truly even gay if you really need to know. I am human, and I deserve respect just as you do.

So today choose to be a force to end the stigma and lets all change the dialogue.

We are the Undetectable Generation, and we are HIV Equal.

Check out http://www.hivequal.org/ and add your pics. We are more than HIV!

Your Friend David
And I am HIV EQUAL!

 

National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day – Your Friend David

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a nationwide event to promote HIV awareness, prevention, testing, and treatment to lessen the burden of HIV in women and girls.

 

HIV owes a huge debt to us. Especially women who live with HIV.

 

Your sexuality has been hijacked. You already are limited access to birth control, and to legal abortion. You have been used as a sexual being, but never allowed to choose it for yourself. Men of power in the entire world are being ousted as predators, and rapists. We see it everywhere, but HIV was the most insidious.

HIV didn’t steal anything that wasn’t already stolen. It stole your ability to feel. Every single time you felt something from a person, all of a sudden the fear that you could somehow put them in danger, or you could be in danger yourself crept in. It kept you from loving. It kept you from feeling.

On National Women’s and Girls HIV Awareness Day, I call you to take your sexuality back. It is now time to understand that if you take control you can be a force for change. You can prevent HIV.

Get tested, and know your status. This is key. Once you know you can get into care, and once you are in care and it is effective you are at no risk of transmission. You can prevent the spread just by knowing your status.

Stay in care. By following your doctor’s orders and maintaining an undetectable viral load, you are preventing the spread of HIV and protecting your loved one. Staying in care ensures you have the right to a full sexual life, and you are in control.

Spread the word. Take your sisters to get tested. Help them to stay in care. Be there for their ups and their downs. HIV is still a scary thing, so getting involved in support groups, or online groups will help you to connect to others. You are not alone, and you are your sister’s keeper.

We are the Undetectable Generation! We will defeat HIV, one sister at a time.
To all my Ladies! Take back your Sex. Take back your Love.

 
With Unconditional Love,
Your Friend David

U=U My story about HIV treatment

I was diagnosed HIV positive in 2012, well after the scare of HIV being a life sentence. I acquired it from a partner that I trusted and loved. I have a few lifelong issues that put me at a higher risk of being infected. I believe I had HIV from 2004 onward. I was completely sick, all over my body and scared for my future.

I walked back into my apartment, after the long trip out of town to get the test, terrified of the future. I had a new life partner at that time, one who I infected because I did not know my status. I felt like I put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. I was a criminal in my own mind and I felt that cold hand of death on my shoulder. I knew I was going to die, I just knew it. And I knew he would too.

So, we soon got into treatment and soon we recovered. We learned about “viral loads” and “CD4 counts”. We were educated that if the medicine were to work, that the virus could be killed from our systems and our immune systems would begin to recover. We were never told exactly what that meant, other than the medicine was working.

Years went by, I recovered well, and so did he. We became undetectable in about 6 months. It was a miracle to me, I survived! That cold dark death was off my soul. I could try to be normal as I could.

I was told all my life that once you were HIV positive you would never have the same kind of sex life, you could never be a healthcare worker; you were never going to be truly well again.

It’s like being told all your life that bunny rabbits were evil, and would kill you on sight. That they were the worst things on the planet and you should never be in contact with them. You could die, and your family could die. When that is what you hear all the time, you begin to believe it. No one said otherwise and so I completely believed the stigma.
So we tracked our progress, and celebrated the success, but I never felt like I could be with him again. I could reinfect him. I could cause a super infection and just the thought of human contact became a trigger for panic attacks and depression.

I am an internet savvy guy. I researched how to help the ARV I was taking work better. I learned about diet and exercise, I learned about meditation and behavior modification. I assisted in my recovery in every way. It paid off, I’m healthy now, but somehow I was still scared. My lover became distressed and the relationship fell apart. I couldn’t even hold him anymore. I was truly terrified.

So when one day I begin to hear on the interwebs that being undetectable was not just the goal of treatment. Undetectable could mean that I might not pass it on to another person ever again. As long as my treatment was successful, I was now safe. I didn’t believe it.

Rabbits are the enemy and they will kill you, but they are cute and they may not all be evil. Some may even be friendly and might just love you back…. Blew my mind.

The noise became a cacophony of science. Countries started to disseminate information that I thought was quackery. Could I be safe now that I was undetectable? Was it time that I embraced this notion and move on? Was this the good news I needed my friends and my family to know, that they were never in any danger, and now even less danger?

Effective ARV treatment means bringing down the viral load in your system. This I knew and trusted. More and more countries were adopting this Undetectable = Untransmittable message. But the US had not just yet got there. I chose to believe in the science from my own country, a world power, the forefront of medicine.

And then one day, years later in 2017 I was scrolling through my Facebook groups and blogging and researching and I saw the most amazing thing.

The CDC posted new information. They now knew the Undetectable meant I could not transmit this virus anymore. As long as I kept up the protocols, I would never have to deal with that fear again. I printed the information and took it to my doctor. I needed him to tell me this was true.

He initially didn’t. Initially he was a skeptical as I was. Now he treats all STI infection so he will always say that I need to use protection, but he continued to worry about confection and risk.

I kept researching and I kept seeing more and more countries accepting the new facts. Those damn rabbits were being elusive and maybe they might not be as dangerous as we all thought.

This brings me closer to now. Just about 6 months ago I walked into my doctor’s office, and sitting there pinned to the scale to measure my weight was a sign.
U=U was all it said, but it said more to me than anyone knew.

The discussion changed. The exciting news was overwhelming. I fell into tears. I could love again! I could have a happy and meaningful sexual relationship with a partner and I could lose the fear that my allergy to latex and my choice of enjoying sex without a condom only meant that I could catch something else, or pass something else on. NOT HIV!

I needed to tell the world! I started to tell my HIV community, where I was met with their fear. They were more than skeptical of this info even though the source was sound. They refused to believe the medical staff, and the many advocates that brought all the info they could read to educate themselves.

I believed now. The rabbits are harmless, it was all a lie, and I bought it. You bought it. We all bought it. And well it was totally and completely wrong.

When you are told that something will kill you all your life, you will learn to believe it and it will take much time to change that opinion. This post will not be enough to change some of your minds and I know this, but I am a rabbit, and I am cute, cuddly and an herbivore. I don’t want to kill you and I never did.

Being undetectable means you can never pass the virus to another partner no matter how you choose to love.

This is my story. This is my new life given back to me. It’s your story tooNever choose fear over science. Never give up on the facts for the stigma. Bust the stigma and spread the word! We are FREE!

So, today I need you to convince your friends that those vicious rabbits are not what we were told. We need to focus on testing and treatment, not continued fear and stigma. It’s a win! And we need to celebrate it!

I encourage you, if you are in the Central Brevard area to come to the Central Brevard Sharing center. Twice a month they offer confidential testing to anyone who walks in. Once you are tested and you know your status you can begin treatment, and once you begin treatment you are on your way to freedom. You will soon be undetectable, and then you will be untransmittable.

Science not Stigma, Facts not Fear! We are the Undetectable generation. We are stronger than HIV.

If you need more information or you want to talk about this please comment and share this post.

You can find me on Twitter @CrimsonAdvocate, or on Instagram @CrimsonAdvocate. Check out my Facebook page @CrimsonAdvocate. Shoot me a message and I will help you to understand.

With unconditional love, and no fear in my heart!
Your Friend David

HIV Testing at The Central Brevard Sharing Center – Your Friend David

Another beautiful day!

Today I will volunteer for the Central Brevard Sharing Center again. Thursdays, they need office help and I am eager to learn the processes and procedures. As always, if I am too overwhelmed or it just isn’t what I expected, I have been asked to just wander and find a place to work.

This day, Project Response, a local HIV/STI organization will be there to administer anonymous HIV testing. This makes me so excited. I specifically asked if I could somehow be involved in the process, and as long as I just let them work, I can rub as many elbows as I need to.

This is where I need to be, on the front lines, with my people. I really hope that today turns into a win for me in some small way. I just want them to know I am here and I want to know what I can do to help their cause.

I have a separate application for volunteerism with them directly, but I haven’t heard back. This way I might actually meet someone and explain what my goals are.

Today The Crimson Lifeline will be promoted in person. The revolution will be televised!

With the effectiveness of proper ARV treatment, people living with HIV are starting to live normal lives. The medicine will take the virus out in close to 6 months. Once you are undetectable to the blood tests, there is no way to transmit the virus anymore. The onus is on testing now.

Many people live with HIV and don’t even know their status. It literally takes longer to wait on your coffee and Starbucks than to wait for results from an HIV test. Once you know, then you can do something about it. Care is available and very effective.

Being newly diagnosed brings terror and loneliness. I hope to soothe the fears of the ones who walk out with a burden that they can’t understand. I know where they can get the help, and I know how it feels to be helpless.

So come today to the Central Brevard Sharing Center to get your free HIV test today. Don’t go on more day not knowing what could be killing you. I say again, there is help and there is effective treatment. You can have a normal and full life. Just get tested.

Please call: 321-631-0306 for details on when and where they will be on the property.

Come to the office at: 113 Aurora Street Cocoa, FL 32922

We will be happy to help you in any way we can, and while you wait stop into the community kitchen, and check out the thrift store. Many other services are available for you.

Tell them “Your Friend David” sent you!

See you there!

Your Friend David