I am 28. White. A Female. And a former Peace Corps Volunteer. I am HIV Positive. This is my story of how a few months, a few people, and a few events in Zambia changed me and my life forever. This is the story of how I contracted HIV and brought my Peace Corps Journey to a crashing halt... and how I am working now to pick up and put back together the pieces of my life as a newly diagnosed person living with HIV. This was not the journey I had originally planned... my path has traumatically and dramatically changed... but it is the one I am on now. There is no going back. There is only forward. I welcome you to follow along with me as I attempt to explore this new life ahead of me, whether you are someone from the Peace Corps community, or someone living with HIV. I welcome your comments, questions, suggestions, and opinions. Let us go forward together. To start from the beginning, click here He Gave Me More Than A Bracelet.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The First Few Days...

I laid in the hospital bed in South Africa in pure and complete loneliness and silence. I had no phone (my phone from Zambia did not work in South Africa). I knew no one. I had no connection or communication with the outside world. I stared at the wall. I slept. I did Sudoku and Crossword Puzzles. I listened to the sick old lady in the bed next to me beg for suppositories and bed pans. I forced as much food into my body as I could, which still wasn’t much. I got up and went to the bathroom every 30 minutes. I let them poke and prod and draw my blood at least two or three times a day.

The Peace Corps doctors visited me at the hospital once a day. We called my mom. We discussed my options.
1)      Stay in South Africa and continue care on Medevac status until we decide what comes next.
2)      Fly to Washington, D.C. and receive care from medical doctors and Peace Corps Headquarters staff on Medevac status until we decide what comes next.
3)      Fly directly home to my Home of Record.
Eventually, we (Peace Corps, me, and my family) agreed that the best option was to fly to Washington, D.C.

I was discharged from the hospital and transferred to the Medevac Guest House in South Africa for the weekend, until they could get me on a flight back to the United States. At that point I got a South African SIM card for my phone and was finally able to communicate with people in Zambia and the U.S. again. I was still pretty sick though, and spent most of my time in bed, and trying to avoid telling the other Medevac volunteers what was wrong with me.

I communicated with the guy from Zambia. And as can be expected, he was shocked and confused, and responded with, “I don’t understand how you can think you got it from me? We used condoms, didn’t we?” And I said, “Yes, we did. But somehow it still happened. The doctors think it must have come from the unprotected oral sex. You are the only one I’ve been with, so it has to be you. You need to go get yourself tested.” At that point he became really scared and refused to go get tested because of fear. He continued to support and check on me though.

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