Fight HIV stigma!
Dear Madonna and all her fans,
Hello! My name is William Thomas, most people call me Billy. I am a 31year old gay male and HIV positive. I am writing you to tell you my story and ask for help. Help for what you may ask. Help educating people that because someone is positive, that doesn’t mean they are going to die of AIDS. Or even the basics of how the virus is spread. I can’t believe that an Ex friend actually believed that she could get it from me after drinking from the same glass It is 2010, soon to be 2011 and medications have come a long way from what it was in the 1970’s, 1980’s, & 1990’s. I was diagnosed in 2008 and today because of the medications I am healthy and the virus is undetectable in my body.
Recently, I went out on a date and of course I have to tell anyone that I am interested in maybe a relationship with about my status. While I was explaining everything to him he had this horrified look on his face. I had a feeling I was about to be rejected and watch him run franticly out of the restaurant we were eating. There was maybe a few seconds of silence, I swear it felt longer. He then said “You look good for being sick”. Apparently he didn’t hear anything I said except for that I was HIV positive. “I’m not sick” I replied back to him. He seemed confused and he ended the date abruptly.
Now that I have been undetectable for over a year I feel more confident about talking with friends and family about what is going on with me, but I have been rejected way too many times because I’m sick and going to die of AIDS. But that will not happen to me because I take my medications and practice safe sex. I do understand why people think or believe this because when I was diagnosed, I believed I had no future and I only had a few years to live. Something like the ‘Philadelphia’ movie that came out in the 90’s. It took months for me to realize that I actually had a future.
I would like to start a charity or foundation, something that educate people that being HIV positive doesn’t mean the end of your life. Something called ‘LIVE HIV’ or ‘HIV LIFE’, anything that could show people that today HIV is NOT a death sentence. But HIV is still a problem. Statics say that nearly 60,000 people are infected each year in the US. Also, someone did a study in my home city Baltimore, Maryland, surveyed about 300 gay men in bars and clubs. They found that ¾ of the men surveyed were HIV positive and didn’t even know it. That is scary statistics!
Now with more of my story, I grew up in a blue collar family, just outside of Baltimore city. My family wanted me to go to the factory or the steel mill as soon as I was an adult to work. I wanted nothing to do with that type of work for me. I began working in a pizza shop when I was a teenager, and really enjoyed my job. So I stuck with it, I grew in the company and became a manager. Bought my home in 04’, my life seemed like it was going in a good direction. Then in 08’ I became very ill and went to an emergency care doctor where they first diagnosed me with ‘thrush’. Thrush is common in patients with diabetes and HIV, so the suggested that I be tested for HIV. When the results came in they asked me to come in, so I knew the results. I was covered in the gloom and doom of what I had learned in the 90’s when I was in high school.
After about 6 months I realized that being a manager and working 60-70 hours a week wasn’t healthy for me. I quit my job believing that I would be able to find something, any type of job because I had over 10 years of management experience. Well I was wrong. It has been so hard; I really don’t know how much longer I have till I loose my house. Since I left my job, I called the bank to tell them what was going on with me and that I knew that I was going to become behind on my mortgage because I wasn’t making the same amount of money I once was. They told me that they couldn’t help me unless I was behind on my payments. That was July of 2009. Over the past year I have contacted them, sent in paperwork, even meet face to face with someone in their office in Washington DC. But each time they say the paperwork is incomplete or has become expired and they need new documents. And now that I’m working under the table, im really not sure what will happen now. It’s really driving me a bit crazy.
Today, even though I have been rejected by many acquaintances and friends because of their so called knowledge of HIV, I still have hope for my future. Believe me this path has not been easy. I really hope that people will educate themselves and learn that people are living long lives with HIV. Real knowledge is the power, get tested! If you can help in anyway, it would be much appreciated.
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