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!

 

Morning Musings – Fret not, all is well.

As most of you guys know, I was considered disabled. I won my case a few years back and the check and Medicare were a godsend. I used all of the resources that were offered to me to recover.

I battled my immune system, my body always in pain. I battled my mind, always in the worst places, believing I was worthless. I battled my vision loss and how that made me feel so trapped in a world inside my own head. I dealt with the stigma and the shame.

When the government said they were reviewing my disability I freaked out. If my benefits stopped how was I to pay my bills, or see doctors I needed? Would I end up on the street, homeless again? How would I keep my standard of living that I fought so hard for.

It wasn’t easy to get disability. Many find it impossible, but I had a lot of help. I called a great lawyer and I have a decent case manager who assisted me in compiling the information they needed. I gave up on being able, and I succumbed to the fact I would never be the same again.

HIV, blindness, and bipolar took so much from me. I lost friends, my freedom, my independence. All these damn disorders owe me a debt that almost cant be repaid.

And then on my birthday, I get this big envelope with 15 pages of questions reviewing my disability. I saw my doctors, as I was recommended. They all said “don’t worry, you’ll stay disabled. You will never be better.”

In January, I received the last letter I would receive from Social Security. It said after review, my condition had improved and I was now not disabled. I had three more months of benefits and then no more. I was, to say it bluntly, blown out of my soul.

I have since had to move into a place I am not taken seriously. I live with people who are so much worse off than I am that I have to hide in my dark places so that I don’t feel their misery.

Never ending applications for employment then ensued. I count as of this post over 20 different places I have applied to, and I have had only one response. That is good. I only need one fish to feed me. I don’t eat that much.

Of all places it is McDonalds that seems to be taking me seriously. I have an interview on Monday and I hope that they will see I am totally able now to do anything they need. Hell, I’ll take a cut in the base pay and clean their toilets with a toothbrush if it means a steady paycheck. I am ex-military so I can do anything.

So I put on my smile, that great big beautiful smile, and I press my trousers crisp. I want to look like the sharpest man on the planet. I need this job. I need it to feel worthy, and to feel like I am a productive member of society again.

I do some volunteer work, and I am constantly on here helping people so I always have something joyful to do, but that don’t pay the bills. Money pays the bills, and I need to make some.

I aspire to be recertified as a CNA, and I am working on specializing as much as I can to care for the newly diagnosed HIV patients. I have been there, and I know it takes a lot to stay in care, and to recover. The protocols for success are rigid, but totally worth it.

My viral load has been undetectable for years now, and so I know that I am in no danger of transmitting this virus to anyone else. But to get there took time and patience. It took hard work and love. To be able to type this to you took years of doing things that my doctors laughed at me for.

For instance, video games helped me to strengthen my good eye. Walking up dangerous highways and taking the bus everywhere challenged my fear of the world. I got into some good mental health treatment so my bipolar is managed. My doctor says I am a miracle. I say I am a trooper and a man of steel. I can do anything I put my heart into.

So this morning’s message is, don’t give up. When they say you can’t, and you know you can, then do it. When you feel lonely, there are thousands of lonely people out there, so find one. When you are in need, there are even more then you, who need. Give to them.

Let life pass through the molecular machine that God made you. If you don’t believe in a God, that’s good because nothing I just said above is religious or spiritual. It is the law of life and of living. It’s the sacred law of attraction. Give to the world what you want in return. Prove me wrong!

“Fret not, for it only causes harm.” Put your trust in your higher power and let the work begin. It’s up to you to make your life, so make it joyful. I promise you will reap great rewards.

And in the meantime, I am your friend. I will be here through the ups and the downs. I know you are a beautiful creative force. I’ll believe in you when you can’t believe in yourself.

That’s my job.
Unconditionally loving you,
Your Friend David

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

Health Care Workers (HCW) and the State of Florida

https://www.hivlawandpolicy.org/states/florida

One of the things that have passed through my mind, and have given me a few minutes of anxiety is that I may not be physically able to do the work I’m pushing to do. I am HIV positive, and in the state of Florida, I can’t be assured that the state isn’t working with current science.

 
I wondered myself if the laws of my state would protect my health information, if it is not important to me and my clients care. I don’t want to disclose my status unless I am legally obligated to do so. It is my right to privacy to have my medical condition be kept confidential, until the condition becomes a safety threat.

 
So I have spent many hours searching for my answer. Google is great, but you can’t believe everything you read on there. You need confirmation.
So I called some nurses in the know. The nurses that care for HIV and AIDS patients. I asked them that question. This is what I learned:

Just testing positive for HIV cannot bar you from serving with a certificate under the Nursing Board’s updated guidelines. Having an undetectable viral load reduces my risk for transmission to the medical level of safety that other nurses are able to work, free of communicable diseases.
You must be clear of Hepatitis A and B via vaccination, and to demonstrate a negative TB test. You need to be able to be physical and to be able to be on your feet long hours. You need to the mental stability to be able to deal with the rigors of healthcare work.
You need to be educated, and demonstrate that you are competent for certification.

 
If there are any high risk procedures that universal precautions cannot protect you and the patient, I have the responsibility to find another CNA to complete the task. If there is any incident, I am required to report it.

 
Nothing in the statutes says HIV, well medicated and controlled, can stop me from my goals to be a Certified Nursing Assistant. Undetectable equals untransmittable, and that is the science. The rest is stigma and I know I will feel plenty of that going forward.

 
But not today. Today I move closer to my goals, despite anything anyone else has to say. It is admittedly grand goal, but I’ve made my mind up and nothing will get in my way.
I will ask for a full copy of my medical records, including my shot records, and current testing results just to be safe. I am guarding myself already for the push back. Bring it on; I have science on my side.

 
You do too. Never let HIV get in the way of your dreams.

With unconditional love,
Your Friend David.

Undetectable equals Untransmittable

Five years ago I was diagnosed with Advanced HIV. I was suffering from endless respiratory infection and cytomegalovirus retinitis, which left my retina detached and my right eye blind. I had asymptomatic syphilis, and systemic thrush. My teeth were wearing out and my body was wearing away.

I soon found myself on the Ryan White program and on my States ADAP program, which provided me access to AIDS drugs. I was prescribed Stribild and other medications to suppress and clear the infections and the viruses.

In six months I went from a viral load of over 100,000 copies per ML to UNDETECTABLE. Me and my Doctor celebrated the news in the office. Like fools we were shouting and carrying on, the nurses had to check on us. It was insane!

Being UNDETECTABLE means there is not enough of the virus left in the blood stream to actually measure by the blood testing that is normally done. This is the likely outcome of effective antiretroviral therapy, and means the medicine is successfully working to suppress the virus.

When I became undetectable medical science was debating just what the idea of “UNDETECTABLE” really meant for the patient. Would this mean that there would be so little of the virus in the body as to prevent the infection of another person? What does this mean for long term survival and long term care? Will this finally be the stigma busting tool we need?

 
I believe, YES this information is the best stigma busting information that we could have hoped for!
The CDC now recognizes that having a sustained UNDETECTABLE viral load lowers the risk of transmission to ZERO.
“People who take ART daily as prescribed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner.” – CDC.gov September 2017.
This means that, not if but when you get into effective ARV treatment, and you are compliant to the protocols, you will get to an UNDETECTABLE state, and then be unable to transmit the virus. There is zero risk of transmission, and no other science exists that refutes this fact.

 
I can now have sex, eventually with an informed partner, and have sex without the painful allergic reaction I have to latex. My partner can rest assured that as long as I maintain an UNDETECTABLE viral load they are in no danger. I feel so free with this fact.
I can be a health care worker and I cannot pass this virus to any one of my patents, residents, or clients. I am as safe as any other health care worker and as long as I maintain my health I will always be.

 

 

I invite you to visit the “U=U” movement’s web site at: www.preventionaccess.org
While you are there please look at the downloadable online resources available at: www.preventionaccess.org/resources
https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/art/index.html : Is the CDC official statement regarding viral suppression and effective ARV treatment, assessing zero risk of transmission
EDUCATE YOURSELF. You have rights, and when you don’t fully understand them, that’s when your beliefs can be twisted to support the stigma and fear of this condition.

“All people living with HIV have a right to accurate and meaningful information about their social, sexual, and reproductive health.” Prevention Access Online

 

If you have any more questions, or would like to discuss this topic more, please comment, follow, and like. I want you to be informed, and educated. Stigma can be defeated by accurate and informed data. We can end this once and for all!

In love unconditionally,
Your Friend David