Disclosure – Your Friend David

(Although this story is based on a real situation, the exact details and identifying information have been carefully removed. This story is to raise awareness on a particular situation affecting PLWHIV, and has no base in absolute truth.)

 

He’s been out of work for a while now. It’s been a long battle with AIDS, then the nerve pain, but now it’s the stark reality that his disability checks are ending. He needs income now.

And so he begins to place application after application in. The process is so much different now after the time he spent disabled. They want so much more, and they want it online. It’s a cold process of keywords and no call backs. No one seems to take his situation well.

Then one call comes back. It’s a minimum wage gig but anything is better than nothing. He sets up the interview, and prepares to snag this job. It’s in the bag, he interviews very well.

The interview comes and goes, he is honest about his physical limitations, and that he doesn’t feel that any special accommodation should need to be made, no mention of his HIV status has been asked for, as that is not important in this job. There is zero risk of transmission doing any part of this particular job.

He waits and then gets to on boarding for the job. There is paperwork and more paper work, but then something makes his hair stand up on his neck. They require him to explain his medical condition in depth for the last 7 years. They want to know diagnoses, procedures, hospitalizations. This doesn’t seem right but he needs this job.

He tells the HR representative of his reservations, and it is explained that it is a condition of employment. Reluctantly he submits, and gives them the info. What could it hurt, they have confidence in him and he feels that it should be returned in kind.

 

Two days into working and he is summarily fired. At will. He wonders why and now feels that his disclosure may have had a role in this. He is scared and at a loss. What should he do?

There are laws that protect from this kind of discrimination. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects workers from work place discrimination based on a medical condition, and requires that if an employer hires a person with a known condition, they must accommodate reasonably.

When you are asked about your medical history, if the job doesn’t warrant your disclosure you should politely refuse, and if it is a condition of employment you should ask how your information will be used, stored, and protected. This is a basic right.

Now there may be jobs where the risk of transmission exists and your employer may need to know your status, but that is rare, and in most cases even with a viral load, you are unlikely to expose anyone to it. In my case I want to be a CNA and they will need to know that my viral load is undetectable, and my immune system is back so I won’t be a liability in nursing. But that is sometimes a risky situation, and is expected. If there is no risk in your job, you do not have to disclose. It’s that simple.

Look up your local Center for Independent Living, or ADA representative if you feel discriminated against. Remember that most jobs like this will be “at will” and they have the right then to fire you for no cause whatsoever. They don’t have the right to fire you for a medical condition without reasonable accommodation. You need to report this to the EEOC as well.

Stigma should never be allowed to take anything from you. You have the right to live and to be a functional part of society. Protect that right.

 

In Unconditional Love,

Your Friend David

I am the Light – The return of Your Friend David

I really want to write to you. It seems so difficult though, as these days I’m in a very dark place. I never want to infect my work with a lot of darkness because I believe in the power of good news and good thoughts. But I am very much in a dark, dark place.

This place is familiar. I have been here before, on the edge of life where every decision is a real affirming thing. Waking up and getting out of bed, the need to supply the body food and to try to be as human as possible, but you know you can’t really get it done today. Nope, the body and the mind just don’t have it.

And let’s make this story even murkier, the darkness has a friend.

He is living here with his dad who needs help himself. He is an addict and a liar. He is a thief and a thug and he is really not wanted here but he persists. He somehow ends up pissing everyone off every day. It’s on its way out but it’s going to destroy everything in its path on its way out.

That is my life on the surface. That is just what is going on physically. I am bent mentally as well.

I have been declared able to work and since have been following my dream to get my Certified Nursing Certificate back and to work as a home health aide, private duty. In the mean time I need cash so I apply at a few places and I take a job.

When I on boarded they asked for way too much medical information for my liking and that led to a confrontation that was demeaning and vile. I was fired because of my HIV status and it was a punch in my gut. How could an advocate like me let an entity disgrace me like that? What do I do about it?

My personality disorder has been teetering on destruction and so I have not been feeling the writing thing and I certainly didn’t feel like I could help anyone, now that I have been violated that way.

I believe I need you more now than I have ever needed you but it is so hard to talk to you about all of this. I need you, and I will reach out for you. I need to be able to say what I feel again, and to be open with you about my journey.

As of March I am still undetectable, my CD4 count is 450, and I am at my target weight of 155lbs. I am so happy to be healthy and that I have access to the best team of medical professionals. I am healthy in the body and I am strong.

My mother is very ill. Cancer is a darkness that lingers and attacks at 3am. It starts to erode the hope and light. She knows now that she needs to change some things she never thought she’d have to. I am here, I will be her light.

I am well placed to be a CNA; I have the opportunity to care for a private duty client, and to be here to care for my mother. This darkness can’t kill all the light. I will be the light.

I will be the light in this darkness. But it is hard to blog to you about this. It is hard to feel all of this and talk to you about it. I am the light.

I am the light.

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!

 

So high he forgot his coffee…

I get up naturally at about 430am every morning. It’s something I’ve done for ages since my stint in the military. I try to use the quiet time to meditate, blog, and to prepave my day. It’s helpful for me.

But this morning was a little different. As you have heard I live between two active addicts. I have to count my medications twice daily to make sure that I’m not enabling them just by having my medications in the house. I hide them in places, never in the same place twice.

This morning the boy is awake. I call him a boy because he’s never really acted like a man. He is so flipping lit on whatever he is on that I’m sure that he’s on his way to a really bad case of withdrawal once the drugs wear off.

In the meantime, he is attempting to do laundry. My mother’s clothing was still in the dryer, she had a long week so she is sleeping in. He almost went back to deliver them to her. Well, I think I just saved his life because if you wake that beast, she will rip your throat out. And I would let her.

I know it’s hard to quit, but he’s not even trying. I am daily scrutinized for my legal medications, that I take as prescribed, but this foolishness is tolerated for some ungodly reason. It’s a real bummer to have to deal with my own recovery and watch another say he’s in treatment, all the while abusing it.

I have been off my drug of choice for decades now. I fully feel recovered; I don’t need that kind of life. Some people just don’t know how to cope without hiding in a drug induced stupor.

He left the meal my mother cooked for him in the microwave again. Undoubtedly, he forgot that he heated it up so it went into the trash. He was working on the back door and got about half way through; I doubt it will be done today. He made himself a coffee in the Keurig but has now forgotten it’s there. I’m taking bets on how long it takes him to remember he did that.

I really have a hard time living here because I am the black sheep. I am the problem somehow.
Well fuck that.
I am not actively high, and if I need help I know where my local NA is and who my sponsor is. I’ll get help. He goes to a suboxone clinic and he abuses that too. I don’t see how that kind of treatment helps. Substitution therapy is bull.

The way out is to admit you have a problem that you have no control over. You cannot manage your life and you need help, not from man, but from your higher power. Man will fail you, God never fails. I know this, and I live by it. One day at a time.

So now the house is waking up and I am about to hide because I want nothing to do with the outcome of this. I have warned my grandfather gently that there is a big problem, but he won’t do anything to help at all. I’ll get blamed, or it will be me that is the problem if I say anything more. So I am here saying it to you.

I don’t know how much more I can take of this nonsense. It’s been an hour since he made that cup of coffee, and it’s still sitting there. I believe it won’t be drunk at all. I put a full hundred on it. I’ll be rich by noon.

Get help, find a local NA/AA meeting, see a qualified psychologist and just take the first step. It’s the hardest step but you can do it. I did. You will feel pain, but that is what being human means. If you don’t feel pain you’re not really alive. Teach your brain to find ways to get that happy chemical going without your substance. It takes time and hard work but you can do it.

If you are in danger, and you need help I am always here. Search me out, I’ll talk you through it. We can go together into recovery, and you will be whole again soon. But it takes that first step. One baby step.

In continual recovery and unconditional love,
Your Friend David

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