I should have taken more in the way of precautions and chose whom to have sex with more diligently. Because I didn't, I am now a "marked" man and nobody wants to have anything to do with me.
The man I chose to have sex with was, unbeknownst to me, infected with the HIV virus.
I am a pariah.
Nobody, not even my own family, wants me around. My very own flesh-and-blood have disowned me; I now stay at a shelter with several other men and women who have HIV or full-blown AIDS; they're my family now.
Didn't help matters any when I "came out of the closet" and told my family about my having a relationship with a guy. (Yes, I'm gay.) They banned me from coming into their house and I'm no longer welcome in their lives. I had been on the streets nearly 15 years until I came to the shelter; I've been here since (nearly a year now).
I started having symptoms over 10 years ago. At first, I experienced puzzling symptoms such as flu-like symptoms (malaise, weakness, chills, muscle and joint aches, large, tender lymph nodes, throat infection, rash, and headache), as well as gastrointestinal symptoms: diarrhea, nausea, vomiting. I also lost an incredible amount of weight. Lost over 50 pounds in under six months. I looked like a skeleton.
The symptoms truly frightened me, so I went to the ER. I was admitted for tests, to see what was going on. Tests later revealed that I had HIV.
As time wore on, I experienced more symptoms including night sweats, more fevers and GI tract symptoms, and muscle pain (myalgia) that nearly disabled me. I was forced to quit my job because I could not cope with the ongoing bouts of illness, fatigue, extreme weakness, and pain. I was forced to try to get on a supplimental disability income.
That was over 15 years ago.
I ended up on the streets, as a homeless bum, until I came to the shelter nearly one year ago. I begged and panhandled for food or a place to stay; I slept anywhere I could lie my head. I slept under overpasses, near bridges, on the grass in the park, in alleyways, next to garbage cans or dumpsters, even in cardboard boxes. People would chase me away because they thought I was a "danger" to them or a threat when all I was doing was trying to find a place to live or lay down for the night, nothing more.
I have since gotten full-blown AIDS. What got me that diagnosis was I kept having repeated bouts of respiratory infections or pneumonias that sent me to the nearest ER, gasping for air; I was immediately admitted and treated with powerful antibiotics. They also found the AIDS agent in my blood. I was often in the hospital; I became a "frequent flyer". The people at the ER and the hospital became my friends; they, in turn, became mine. I learned their names and what they did or what their lives were like, and vice versa.
in addition to the lung thing, I also have Karposi's sarcoma, which is a kind of cancer. I have sores and blisters all over my body; they are incredibly painful. It is extremely difficult for me to eat without throwing up everywhere or having explosive bouts of diarrehea. I can no longer walk under my own power because I am so weakened; I now use a wheelchair to get by. I weigh maybe 100 pounds; I used to weigh 200 before AIDS took me prisoner and made me a hostage.
I have been having treatment for my cancer and for my worst symptoms (pneumonia or lung infections), but it doesn't seem to be doing any good. I am now classified as "terminal" and I wouldn't be surprised if I don't end up in the hospital (or a hospice center) to live out my final days/weeks/months. Doctors are giving me maybe six months to live.
So that's my (sad) story. It is not a pretty story, as you can very well see. And it is all because I made some poor decisions. If I had been a lot more careful, I would not be in this mess; my life would be far different.
Do I regret it? Yes, I do, every day. I am filled with guilt and shame because I let my family and friends down, but most of all, I let myself down, and maybe it will be better once I DO pass away. The world would certainly be much better off without a failure like me.
~G. (Name withheld at person's request.)