October 9, 2010

23 Years Old and HIV-Positive in 2010

To be 23 years old and HIV-positive in 2010 is not uncommon, but it's quite a shock to someone who was once 23 years old and HIV-positive--25 years ago in 1985.

Twenty-five years ago this month, Rock Hudson died of AIDS. The entire world was gripped in the AIDS Panic. The AIDS Monster was the number one terrorist worldwide.

At the time, I was 23 years old and HIV-positive. I was an AIDS Monster and couldn't tell a soul. I heard the AIDS Panic in people's daily conversations. I heard the AIDS jokes. When the entire world was obsessed with AIDS, I had AIDS and the world didn't know it.

And I survived, twenty-five years and counting. I survived to witness a second AIDS epidemic, currently infecting the youth of America. The difference in 2010: the AIDS Monster gets no hype, no media attention, no buzz.

But young kids in America are being infected daily, mostly because they possess very little training in the survival tool known as safer sex. The result: I, a longtime survivor of HIV/AIDS, now see young men and women on the net who are 23 years old and HIV-positive, as I was 25 years ago.

My heart breaks a little each and every time I see someone who's young and HIV-positive.

You can live a long, full life, I tell them, giving them a brief recap of my success story. Anything is possible. Keep dreaming big.

Thanks, they'll tell me. Many of them tell me how it helps, hearing my story. Seems to make them feel a little better about themselves and their chances for a happy, healthy life.

That alone gives me comfort when I think about the young men and women who are 23 years old and HIV-positive in 2010.